Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Grizzly bear populations have responded favorably to recovery zone management in the three Montana ecosystems in which they occur. However, in certain areas of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, local segments of the population appear to be diminishing. Major threats to the grizzly bear include habitat loss and degradation, primarily attributable to increased road-building on public lands and residential and commercial development of private lands. Quality low-elevation habitat, including essential spring range, is often located on private lands, where the potential for human-bear conflict is high.
State and Federal agencies involved in recovery efforts continue to implement the population and habitat management policies detailed in the 1986 Interagency Grizzly Bear Guidelines. Human-caused bear mortality has declined over the past decade in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Ecosystem. Interagency efforts, including sanitation measures, public education, habitat management, and bear nuisance management, have contributed to this decline. Both populations appear stable except for some local segments in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. Population estimates are a minimum of 400 for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and 228 for the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Ecosystem.
As a result of augmentation efforts in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, two female grizzlies from British Columbia were successfully added to the small population in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area. In 1991, after a 5-year habitat study, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee approved an additional Montana ecosystem, the Bitterroot Mountains, for bear recovery efforts. Although the Bitterroot Mountains have had a grizzly population in the past, there is no known population at present. This additional recovery zone will contribute greatly to the bear's recovery.
Of the several thousand section 7 consultations carried out since 1990, most have been informal and have resulted in slight (if any) project modifications while conserving grizzlies and their habitat.
Recovery will require continued monitoring in each ecosystem; habitat conservation through continued application of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Guidelines in recovery zones; continued public information programs; sanitation projects, such as the removal of food sources (e.g., garbage dumps) that attract bears into areas of human activity, by Federal, State, and local governments; and development of a plan for recovery efforts in the Bitterroot Ecosystem.
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks was provided $90,000 in FY 1991 and again in FY 1992 for gathering information on grizzly bear habitat and population conditions.
Forest Service: Because grizzly bear habitat occurs primarily on national forests, this Federal agency has primary responsibility for grizzly bear habitat management in Montana. It compiles annual population monitoring records for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and participates in monitoring the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Ecosystem. On several national forests, the Forest Service has initiated educational projects and sanitation measures that have reduced human-bear conflicts.
National Park Service: The National Park Service is the lead agency for population monitoring in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, and is responsible for nuisance bear management in the parks, including control actions specified in the Interagency Grizzly Bear Guidelines. This Federal agency implements management measures to make visitor use and recreation compatible with bear recovery and habitat conservation. The National Park Service also has information and education programs, and enforces sanitation measures that have significantly decreased human-bear conflict.
Bureau of Land Management: In conducting management of lands under its jurisdiction, this Federal agency conserves bear habitat, works to make multiple-use objectives compatible with grizzly bear recovery, and cooperates in handling nuisance bear problems.
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks: The Department participates in grizzly bear monitoring and has primary responsibility for managing nuisance bears on private, State, and Federal lands outside national parks. The Department has also initiated successful information and education programs, as well as proactive management programs on private lands that have reduced nuisance bear problems.
Plan approved 1/29/82.