IMAGE: Grizzly in Yellowstone
James Peaco  /  Yellowstone National ParkĀ via AP file
This grizzly bear was spotted inside Yellowstone National Park last June, one of an estimated 600 inside or just outside the park.
updated 1/3/2006 1:48:02 PM ET 2006-01-03T18:48:02

Public meetings are scheduled this month in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming on the federal government's plans to remove federal protections for grizzly bears surrounding Yellowstone National Park.

The move would put management of bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem into the hands of the three states and give them greater flexibility. It also could clear the way for limited hunting.

Public meetings on the proposal are scheduled Jan. 9 at the Holiday Inn in Bozeman; Jan. 10 in Cody, Wyo.; Jan. 11 in Jackson, Wyo.; and Jan. 12 in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Information on the plan will be provided, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials will field any questions, spokeswoman Sharon Rose said.

Public comment will also be taken by mail and e-mail until Feb. 15, she said.

Grizzlies have been protected under the Endangered Species Act for 30 years.

The Interior Department cited robust population growth, coupled with public support and cooperation between state and federal governments, in announcing in November its proposal to remove the grizzly from the Endangered Species List.

The number of grizzlies in the Yellowstone area has grown at a rate of 4 to 7 percent per year since the bear was listed in 1975, federal officials said. They estimate more than 600 grizzly bears now live in the region.

Environmental groups are split over the issue. The National Wildlife Federation supports ending the protections, saying it would highlight the success of the endangered species law. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and other groups say too many threats still exist for the bears.

Four other grizzly populations in the lower 48 states would continue to be protected as threatened species under the act. These bears live in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington.

Alaskan grizzly bears, which number about 30,000, were never listed under the act.

Comments on plan may be emailed toFW6_grizzly_yellowstone@fws.gov

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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