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The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee meets this week to consider the last steps towards removing grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem like this 275-pound sow captured in the Mission Valley in 2017 from the Endangered Species List. 

Just months away from the possible release of grizzly bear delisting plans for the northern Rocky Mountains, a coalition of wilderness advocates has set a public debate on the recovery efforts.

Grizzly Bear Recovery: Crossroads or Crosshairs features panel discussions, presentations and a keynote address by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks bear specialist Jamie Jonkel on Tuesday. Organizers include the Flathead-Lolo-Bitterroot Citizen Task Force, University of Montana Environmental Studies Department, Wilderness Watch, UM Wilderness Institute, Sierra Club Montana Chapter and Wild West Institute.

Conference co-organizer Mike Bader said a main reason for the event was the limited opportunities for public involvement in grizzly bear decisions before the animals are removed from federal Endangered Species Act protection.

“If not now, where and when?” Bader said of the Tuesday timing. “The decisions on grizzly delisting are imminent, and they will have consequences for more than the bear. They involve land management, hunting and wildlife management.”

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee advises state and federal wildlife managers on grizzly policy. It has announced intentions to finish its recommendation for delisting grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem around the end of 2017. The status of those recommendations will be its main agenda at a meeting on Nov. 29 in Missoula.

Scheduled participants at the conference include FWP research biologist Cicily Costello, retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly recovery coordinator Chris Servheen, retired UM conservation genetics professor Fred Allendorf, and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal wildlife program manager Dale Becker. They will speak and take audience questions from 1 to 4:30 p.m. in the University Center room 330. Jonkel’s feature presentation takes place at 7 p.m. at the Public House, 130 E. Broadway, with a no-host bar and reception to follow. Both events are free and open to the public.

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