Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has extended the comment period, a second time, on a draft of an updated conservation and management plan for grizzly bears in southwestern Montana. The comment period was to end Sept. 30. In response to requests for additional time to examine the document FWP has extended the comment period to Oct. 11.
The draft plan, which is an update of a plan that was completed in 2002, has been developed over the past year in conjunction with a programmatic environmental impact statement. The draft addresses state management options once the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's more than 700 grizzly bears are removed from the federal list of threatened species.
FWP has received a number of comments and questions regarding operating costs. FWP Wildlife Division administrator Ken McDonald clarified the costs listed in Table 9 on page 64 of the draft plan are the minimum operating costs of program implementation. Additional clarification of costs and response to public comment will be provided in the final EIS.
Among the issues considered in the EIS are population monitoring, habitat management, nuisance grizzly bear management, future distribution and the potential for grizzly bear hunting.
FWP held open houses in August in Bozeman, Helena and Billings to discuss and the draft plan.
Copies of the draft plan and comment forms are available online at fwp.mt.gov. Click "SW MT Grizzly Bear Management Plan." Public comment will be accepted through 5 p.m. Oct. 11.
A final decision notice is expected from FWP in December, and is scheduled to be considered for approval by the Fish & Wildlife Commission in January. For more information, call 406-444-2612, or visit the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov.