From MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks
KALISPELL — The public is invited to the next meeting of the Governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council in Libby on Feb. 26-27.
The advisory council will gather in the Ponderosa Room at City Hall, 952 E. Spruce, in Libby on both days. The meeting is scheduled to start at 8 a.m., Feb. 26, and 9 a.m., Feb. 27. The meetings are open to the public and opportunities for public engagement will be available.
On Feb. 26 from 5-6:30 p.m., the meeting will feature an extended opportunity for the public to share ideas and questions related to the council’s purpose and emerging ideas.
The public is also encouraged to provide input to council members online at fwp.mt.gov/gbac.
The focus throughout the two-day meeting will be for the council to further develop its emerging ideas and continue to build upon a shared knowledge and understanding of the issues the group is tasked with addressing. Among the topics to be discussed at the meeting in Libby, a panel presentation and discussion will focus on the challenges and opportunities that recreation and tourism have on the recovery, conservation and management of grizzly bears. Other topics will include funding, connectivity and the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, a federally designated recovery zone for grizzly bears in northwest Montana.
The Cabinet-Yaak Recovery Zone is situated in northwestern Montana and northeastern Idaho. The recovery zone stretches over more than 2,600 square miles of forested and mountainous habitat throughout the Yaak River drainage and the Cabinet Mountains. This ecosystem encompasses approximately 90 percent public lands. The grizzly bear population in this recovery zone extends into Canada throughout the Purcell Mountain Range.
In the 1980s, only a few grizzly bears remained in this area, estimated at fewer than 10 in the Cabinet Mountains portion alone. In 1990, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a program in collaboration with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to restore the population and boost genetic diversity. As part of this augmentation program, young grizzly bears without a prior conflict history are occasionally captured in the nearby Northern Continental Divide Recovery Zone and moved to remote areas with similar habitat conditions in the Cabinet-Yaak with the goal of the bears taking up residency.
In 2018, the 20th grizzly bear was moved to the ecosystem through this augmentation program. In 2019, two grizzly bears, a sub-adult female and sub-adult male, were captured in the Whitefish Range and moved to the Cabinet-Yaak.
Currently, there are an estimated 55 to 60 grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak Recovery Zone.
The meeting in Libby will be the Grizzly Bear Advisory Council’s fifth gathering.
Additional meetings will be held across the state to provide more people the opportunity to interact with the council before it submits its final recommendations this summer. More information about the council, including meeting summaries and presentation slides from the previous council meetings, can be found online at fwp.mt.gov/gbac.