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Protection of grizzlies pondered

AFP/Getty Images
A Grizzly bear mother and her cub walk near Pelican Creek October 8, 2012 in the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.Yellowstone National Park is America's first national park. It was established in 1872. Yellowstone extends through Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The park's name is derived from the Yellowstone River, which runs through the park. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages)

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By USA Today
Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, 6:15 p.m.
 

Forty years ago Saturday, President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act, credited with saving hundreds of species from extinction, including the bald eagle, the American alligator, Florida panthers, sea otters, pumas and manatees.

The anniversary falls as wildlife officials in the northern Rockies are considering lifting protections for hundreds of grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park, a move environmental groups decry as short-sighted. The grizzlies were granted federal protections in 1975 after they had been wiped out across much of their historical range.

They have since made a slow comeback, prompting the Fish and Wildlife Service to advance plans on whether to take more than 700 bears across the Yellowstone region of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming off the threatened-species list.

A decision is expected in January. It would open the door for limited sport hunting of the bears in the area, though protections for their habitat would remain in place.

As that battle heats up, the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration celebrated the full recovery of 31 species that had hovered on the brink of extinction. The first species that was pronounced fully recovered and delisted was the brown pelican.

Today, they are working to protect 1,436 U.S. species.

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