The Story of the IGBC

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.

The group set itself four major objectives: to 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; to 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; to implement the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan to facilitate recovery of grizzly bears; and to implement and oversee the management and research activities of recovered grizzly bear populations.

The status of grizzly bear recovery today, 25 years after those goals were identified, illustrates the effectiveness of the IGBC.

Since it was founded in 1983, the IGBC has:

  • Identified and established five 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, and the Selkirk 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 web site (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.

The IGBC since its inception has been held up as the “Gold Standard” for interagency or partnership endeavors. While often replicated in structure, its function and successes still stand alone and make the IGBC unique. It is a tribute to the commitment and leadership of the IGBC agencies that the status of the grizzly bear has improved. People committed to a common goal have clearly made the difference to the grizzly bears that survive today. As grizzly bear recovery moves forward, the interagency cooperation and commitment that has been the hallmark of the IGBC will become even more important than it has been during the initial leg of this incredible journey. Everyone involved in the IGBC, whether at the Executive Committee level or one of the ecosystem sub-committees, understands that and welcomes the challenge. The grizzly is certainly deserving of this degree of attention and conservation action, and the American people expect nothing less.

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