BILLINGS, Mont. — Montana is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lift threatened species protections for grizzly bears in the northern portion of the state, officials said Monday.
The request comes after bear populations grew sharply in recent years and run-ins between humans and bruins have increased, including attacks on livestock and periodic maulings of humans.
Removing federal protections would give state wildlife officials more flexibility to deal with bears that get into conflicts, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a statement.
Northwest Montana has the largest concentration of grizzlies in the Lower 48 states — more than 1,000 bears across an area that includes Glacier National Park and large expanses of forested wilderness.
In March, U.S. government scientists said grizzlies needed continued protection under the Endangered Species Act because of human-caused bear deaths and other pressures on their populations.
Hunting for grizzlies is banned in the U.S. outside Alaska, but bears considered problematic are regularly killed by wildlife officials.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who oversees Fish and Wildlife Service, co-sponsored legislation while in Congress to increase protections for bears and reintroduce them on tribal lands. Haaland declined to say how she would approach the issue when questioned during her February confirmation hearings.