A revised draft grizzly bear recovery plan has set a goal of 10 female grizzlies with cubs inside Glacier National Park and another 12 females with cubs outside Glacier but still in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service document, released earlier this month, sets the goals to be met during a three-year average.The plan also calls for 20 of the 23 bear management units in the ecosystem to be occupied by female bears with cubs.
And it said that grizzly bear mortality outside Glacier is not to average more than 14 total grizzlies, or six females, during a six-year period.
The revised plan sets forth goals before grizzly bears can be removed from the federal threatened species list in each of four recovery ecosystems. Once the bears are removed from the list, their management would be turned over to state wildlife officials but still monitored by the federal agency.
The other three ecosystems targeted for grizzly recovery are Yellowstone National Park in Montana and Wyoming, the Cabinet-Yaak in Montana, and the Selkirk on the Washington-Idaho border.
Three more ecosystems - the North Cascades in Washington, the Bitterroot in Idaho, and the San Juan in Colorado - are being studied for inclusion as recovery ecosystems.
The goal for the Yellowstone Ecosystem is 15 females with cubs over a six-year average, and 15 of 18 bear management units occupied over a three-year average. Annual mortality is not to be more than seven grizzlies total or two adult females over a six-year average.
The Cabinet-Yaak goal calls for four females with cubs over a six-year average, with 18 of 21 management units occupied. Annual mortality is limited to three grizzlies over a six-year average.
The original recovery plan was approved in 1982.
Officials estimate 50,000 to 100,000 grizzly bears lived in the western United States, excluding Alaska, during the early 1800s. Fewer than 1,000 remain in isolated populations in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington.
Officials say grizzly populations declined because of hunting by humans and loss of habitat due to development. Remaining grizzlies occupy less than 2 percent of their original habitat in the lower 48 states, and grizzlies were listed as a threatened species in 1975.
The revised plan estimates that full recovery of the grizzly population will cost $26 million and be complete in 2010.
Eight public meetings are scheduled to gather public comment on the revised recovery plan for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, and written comments will be accepted through Dec. 21.