The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) was formed in 1983 to help ensure recovery of viable grizzly bear populations and their habitat in the lower 48 states through interagency coordination of policy, planning, management, and research. The IGBC consists of representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey and representatives of the state wildlife agencies of Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. In the interest of international coordination and cooperation, the Canadian Wildlife Service is also represented. At the ecosystem level Native American tribes possessing grizzly habitat within the recovery areas have also been involved.
The IGBC has proven to be a successful model for agencies by working cooperatively together over the last 25 years and coordinating recovery efforts over multiple jurisdictions. The IGBC celebrated 25 years of grizzly bear recovery on June 21, 2008, at the Blackfoot Clearwater Wildlife Management Area in Seeley Lake, Montana.
When the grizzly bear was granted protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1975, biologists estimated that as few as 600 - 800 grizzlies survived in the lower 48 states and that the population was declining. Today, biologists estimate that number may have doubled and grizzly bears are believed to be increasing their numbers in most recovery ecosystems. One population, in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, has already exceeded recovery goals and was delisted in 2007. Legal challenges placed the Yellowstone population back on the Endangered Species list in 2009. Since then the IGBC has been working with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team to address the legal issues raised and has recommended to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service that the Yellowstone Population once again be delisted. Grizzly bears in some ecosystems have returned to portions of their historic range that have not seen a living grizzly in generations, creating new challenges for wildlife managers.
Jim Unsworth, IGBC Chair, 2016-2018
Dr. Jim Unsworth became director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in February of 2015.
Prior to coming to WDFW, Unsworth spent more than 30 years in wildlife management with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He held several management positions for the department, including deputy director, state big game manager and wildlife bureau chief.
He holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife management from the University of Idaho, a master's degree in fish and wildife management from Montana State University and a doctorate in forestry, wildife and range sciences from the University of Idaho.
Ellen Davis, IGBC Executive Coordinator, 2005 - Present
Ellen Davis has held the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) Executive Coordinator position since April 2005. The Executive Coordinator is a U.S. Forest Service position and has been for much of IGBC's 33 years of existence. Prior to that, the position was with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It is also the only permanent staff position within the IGBC and funded by all the federal IGBC member agencies.
Davis's Forest Service career has spanned over 27 years with the agency. Davis began her career in the Alaska Region before moving to the Northern Region of the Rocky Mountains in Montana. She held Public Affairs Specialist positions in both regions before becoming the IGBC Executive Coordinator for the IGBC.
She holds an Associate of Arts (AA) Degree with an emphasis in Communications and English from the University of Alaska, Southeast, Ketchikan Campus.
The story of the IGBC is a story of exemplary cooperation and remarkable success. Prior to the establishment of the IGBC, decisions about grizzly bear recovery often faced problems when they encountered jurisdictional boundaries between federal and state agencies. Funding to implement grizzly bear recovery actions on the ground was also scarce and had to compete against other agency programs. The inclusion of high-level administrators on the IGBC Executive Committee with the authority within each agency to support decisions and funding was a significant turning point for grizzly bear recovery.