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Rosendale Legislation to Delist Montana Grizzly Bear Population Receives Committee Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on Congressman Matt Rosendale’s (MT-02) H.R. 1419, the Comprehensive Grizzly Bear Management Act of 2023. This legislation would direct the Secretary of the Interior to issue a final rule that would remove the Northern Continental Divide population of grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“It was estimated that only 350 grizzly bears resided in the continental United States when the species was originally listed as endangered in 1975. But since then, grizzly populations have recovered dramatically, with over 1,000 grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem,” Rep. Rosendale said. “This bill is a commonsense solution that will allow Montanans the latitude to defend themselves and their property from these large predators.”

The hearing included testimony from Karli Johnson of the Sevens Livestock Company. Karli and her husband have first-hand experience raising both children and livestock in an area where grizzly bear populations are growing.

“Our dog got swiped by a bear in our yard. The claw marks could be seen on his back. The dog survived. A couple summers ago, a bear walked through our yard, on our lawn, in broad daylight. The only reason our son wasn’t riding his bike right where she walked was because it was windy that evening,” said Johnson. “She was obviously comfortable around humans.”

Grizzly bear incursions have also forced the Johnsons to take steps that protect their livestock. This includes erecting a $17,000 bear fence for which they were only reimbursed $10,899 by the Livestock Loss Board. In 2022, there were nearly 150 confirmed or probable claims of livestock predation caused by grizzly bears in Montana alone.

“We’ve since made the choice not to raise sheep due to the risk of predators. And that has limited the scope of our business,” said Johnson. “That only accounts for one of the adaptations and compromises that we’ve made in order to live safely in bear country.”

Montana farmers and ranchers are concerned about the well-being of their families and businesses due to the threat posed by Northern Continental Divide grizzly bears. This legislation will give Montanans the recourse necessary to defend their lives and livelihoods from a grizzly bear population that has surpassed the point of thriving and now pose a direct threat to rural communities.

Key Background:
• The grizzly bears that are protected in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) make up the largest population of grizzly bears in the continental United States.

• The protection of the grizzly bear under the ESA not only threatens humans and livestock, but it also contributes to costly delays, increased litigation, and required mitigation measures around critical habitat established for the bears.

• The recovery goals established when the bear was initially listed have long since been passed, and US Fish and Wildlife, the agency of jurisdiction, continues to push back recovery goals every time they are met, keeping management responsibilities at the federal level. This sets a dangerous precedent for other species included in the ESA and removes any incentive for landowners and users to implement any actual conservation practices.

• As long as the NCDE grizzly bear population remains listed under the ESA, we can expect similar measures to be taken with other species on their way to recovery. The delisting of the Grizzly Bear would fundamentally change the trajectory of the ESA and restore it to the Act’s initial intent when first passed into law by Congress.