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 has proven to be a successful model for agencies by working cooperatively together and coordinating recovery efforts over multiple jurisdictions.
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.
When the grizzly bear was granted protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1975, biologists estimated that only a few hundred grizzly bears survived in the Lower 48 states and that the population was declining.
Today, biologists estimate grizzly bears are increasing their numbers in most recovery ecosystems. 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.
The IGBC originally identified four major objectives:
- Engage top level decision makers in a coordinated approach to recover grizzly bears through policy and procedures adopted by each member agency, to be implemented through each respective ecosystem subcommittee
- Coordinate management and research actions of state and federal agencies related to the grizzly bear and to ensure the best utilization of available resources and prevent duplication of effort
- Implement the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan to facilitate recovery of grizzly bears
- Implement and oversee the management and research activities of recovered grizzly bear populations.
Since it was founded in 1983, the IGBC has:
- Identified and established six grizzly bear ecosystems in Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming, the four western states in which grizzly bears currently exist: the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, the Bitterroot Ecosystem, the Yellowstone Ecosystem, the North Cascades Ecosystem, the Selkirk Ecosystem, and the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem.
- Established and maintained Ecosystem Subcommittees in each of those ecosystems to implement IGBC Executive Committee decisions and to coordinate and oversee recovery efforts on the ground.
- Supported the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team and other scientific efforts to learn more about grizzly bears and what they need to survive.
- Established an active and effective presence in education and outreach about grizzly bears through its Information and Education Subcommittee. This subcommittee is replicated in each of the ecosystem subcommittees.
- Provided clear direction for food storage, garbage management, and removal or management of grazing allotments for sheep and other domestic stock animals within key grizzly bear management areas.
- Established a website (IGBConline.org) to provide the public with accurate information about grizzly bears, the IGBC, the ecosystem subcommittees, their activities, scientific publications and studies, and how to avoid or minimize bear-human conflicts.
- Identified and promoted effective actions and techniques to increase human safety and decrease the likelihood of bear-human conflicts.
- Worked cooperatively with the Canadian Wildlife Service to ensure survival and recovery of cross-border grizzly bear populations.
- Conducted in-depth research into the effectiveness and efficacy of several bear-related developments and products such as bear deterrent sprays, bear-resistant food containers, and portable electric fences to restrict bear access to supplies in the backcountry.