Protection of grizzlies pondered

| 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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