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HJM 5: Delisting Grizzlies from ESA — 2023

Summary: HJM 5 is a non-binding memorial that would support efforts to delist grizzly bears, despite the recent finding that they haven't recovered in the majority of Idaho's designated recovery zones.

ICL's position: Oppose

Current Bill Status: Passed House, Senate Floor

Issue Areas: Endangered Species, Wildlife

Official Legislative Site

Rep. Sage G. Dixon (R-Ponderay) introduced House Joint Memorial 5, in support of the State’s petition to delist the grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Grizzly bears were listed as a threatened species under the ESA in 1975. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee have worked for years to monitor grizzly populations, and recovery zones have been designated in Idaho.

Federal funding supports grizzly bear recovery plans in Idaho, with the US Forest Service managing the majority of grizzly bear habitat. Currently, grizzly bear numbers have expanded in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, but numbers remain perilously low in the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak Recovery Areas in North Idaho. In Central Idaho, the Bitterroot Recovery Area has seen occasional grizzly bear occurrences, but have not documented a breeding female with cubs, which is a prerequisite to consider an area “occupied.”

The population of grizzly bears in the Selkirks are estimated to be 50, with an additional ~40 bears in the Cabinet-Yaak.

In their recent response to Idaho’s petition, the USFWS found that the State of Idaho “failed to present credible scientific or commercial information such that a reasonable person conducting an impartial scientific review” would determine their claims to be correct. This statement contradicts HJM 5 that grizzlies in the lower-48 states “do not warrant protections under the federal Endangered Species Act” and that they have “rebounded and recovered from their historically low numbers and distribution in northern Idaho.”

ICL does support state management of Idaho’s grizzly bears under the right conditions: 1) biologically recovered baseline populations; and 2) adoption of rigorous, enforceable conservation strategies in Idaho that ensure proper oversight and healthy populations that won’t be jeopardized by state management actions. Neither of these two conditions has occurred to date.