Petition seeks return of grizzly bears to West
An environmental group wants federal wildlife managers to revise a decades-old recovery plan for grizzly bears to ensure the animal's return to more areas of the West.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed its petition on Wednesday with the Fish and Wildlife Service, demanding that grizzlies be restored to their native range in such places as California's Sierra Nevada and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
The areas, it said, still contain large tracts of undeveloped habitat favored by the bears.
“We've just begun the job of recovering grizzlies. There is so much more to do to see the bears restored to more of their range in the western United States,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the group.
The Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Under federal rules, it can accept or reject the petition.
An estimated 1,600 grizzlies roam Yellowstone National Park and its border states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The environmental group wants as many as 6,000 grizzlies to thrive in the West, including parts of Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
The federal government added the grizzly to the endangered and threatened species list in 1975 because the bear had been hunted, trapped and poisoned to the edge of extinction in the lower 48 states.
According to the agency, an estimated 50,000 grizzlies roamed between the Pacific Ocean and Great Plains during the early 1800s. Their numbers were drastically reduced as pioneers headed west. By 1975, only six of 37 populations present 50 years earlier remained.