The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&W) may have just started the biggest grizzly fight since The Revenant was released.

In a surprise move, USF&W announced that after 30 years of protection, grizzly bears in the 3-state Yellowstone ecosystem could be removed from the Endangered Species Act.  That means hunting could be used by states as a management tool to keep populations in balance.

The delisting also means that Idaho, Montana and Wyoming will need to develop grizzly bear conservation plans that guarantee populations remain at certain levels. Whether or not hunting is a part of those plans is up to the states.

That sets up a certain conflict between anti-hunting and environmental groups who are opposed to hunting grizzlies under any circumstances. Public hearings and opportunities or comment will be required, and government officials can expect to get an earful on both sides of the issue.

Protections are no longer needed, USFW Director Dan Ashe told reporters in a recent conference call, according to Outdoor Life. “The overwhelming peer-reviewed scientific information at our disposal indicates the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of grizzly bears is biologically recovered,” he said.

“We are regularly seeing grizzly bears more than 80 miles out in the prairies, and we expect to continue to see dispersals of bears” from their core habitat.

Ashe pointed out that the Yellowstone Ecosystem’s bear population has seen a 500 percent increase since grizzlies were first listed as endangered in 1981.

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