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05/13/2009

U.S. Forest Service Proposes Expanded Conservation of Key Grizzly Bear Habitat

Girzzly bearThe U.S. Forest Service has proposed expanded grizzly bear habitat conservation efforts on the Idaho Panhandle as well as Kootenai and Lolo National Forests in Montana and Idaho.  A draft agency plan, released in late April, covers 4,560 square miles of the Cabinet and Selkirk Mountains and proposes two possible management strategies to safeguard the kind of remote habitat grizzly bears require for their survival.  The approach favored by conservation groups would barricade up to 1,800 miles of Forest Service roads, gating another 490 miles of roads and eliminating motorized use on 57 miles of trails.  The agency's preferred alternative would close approximately 325 miles of roads, while closing another 30 miles of trails to use by ATVs.

According to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, of which the U.S. Forest Service is a member, "Human caused grizzly bear mortalities are the primary factor inhibiting grizzly bear recovery in the Western United States.  The risk of these mortalities increases significantly near motorized routes."

An estimated 86 grizzly bears are believed to survive in the area that would be impacted by the plan.  "With less than 100 grizzlies in the area, this proposal greatly increases the chance of survival for these animals," said Monica Fella of Sierra Club's Grizzly Bear Project.

Public comments are being accepted until June 22.

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