Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said Thursday he had met with the governors of Montana and Idaho to look into convening a summit to try to address the growing population of grizzly bears in the northern Rockies.
“Rest assured that we are very, very engaged in the grizzly conversation,” Gordon said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. “I have had a couple of conversations with Gov. (Steve) Bullock, also with Gov. (Brad) Little of Idaho, and we are looking at the possibility of convening a summit to really talk about what to do about the populations.”
The news comes several days after Gov. Bullock announced the formation of an advisory council in Montana to try to spur discussions around states having a greater role in grizzly management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which has been a political football in Washington since the grizzly was removed from protections under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2017.
The grizzly bear was relisted by a federal court decision last fall. However, increasing conflicts between the bears and humans in recent years have raised questions about the federal government’s management policies, particularly as the population in the Greater Yellowstone has grown to number more than 700.
“We’re seeing a lot of grizzly expansion into areas they weren’t anticipated to be in,” Gordon said. “The population is growing.”
Wyoming, like Montana, has taken a leadership role in building support for the states having more say in managing grizzly populations on federal land. In anticipation of delisting, Wyoming’s Department of Game and Fish had crafted and approved a grizzly bear management plan in 2016 and, under the leadership of then-Gov. Matt Mead, the Western Governors Association began an initiative in 2015 to stoke a multi-year discussion about improving the efficacy of the Endangered Species Act.
“We really want to revisit that management prerogative we believe the states have,” Gordon said. “I look forward to having a summit and seeing what other states are able to do.”
In Washington, D.C., a similar conversation has centered around efforts taken by Sen. John Barrasso, who last summer introduced a discussion draft outlining ways to “modernize” the Endangered Species Act.
Gordon said the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is meeting on the topic this week up in Cody, where Gordon will join them Friday.