Map Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE)[1] is the larger area surrounding the Recovery Zone, which is located in northwest Wyoming, eastern Idaho, and southwest Montana. The Recovery Zone includes all of Yellowstone National Park as well as portions of Grand Teton National Park and five National Forests (Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee, Custer Gallatin and Shoshone). Federally managed lands make up 97.9 percent of the Recovery Zone’s 9,209 square miles.

Intensive recovery efforts have led to the recovery of the GYE population, with grizzly bear distribution greatly expanding beyond the initial designated recovery zone. Ongoing population monitoring estimates the population has rebounded to more than 700 bears. Grizzly bears keep expanding their range into habitats with increased human presence, and they are more likely to run into conflicts such as interactions with livestock and humans.

When grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem were listed as a Threatened Species under the Endangered Species Act in 1975, as few as 136 remained.

→ Return of the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear: How the iconic species recovered and is a conservation success story

In 2005, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone was recovered and no longer met the ESA’s definition of threatened or endangered.

In 2007, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service declared the Yellowstone grizzly bear population a distinct population segment that was fully recovered and removed it from the Endangered Species List.

In 2009, a federal judge in Missoula issued an order enjoining and vacating the delisting of the Greater Yellowstone Area grizzly bear population. In compliance with this order, the Yellowstone grizzly population was once again listed as a threatened population under the ESA.

In 2011, an appeals court ruled the grizzly bear should remain on the threatened species list.

In 2016, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee endorsed a Conservation Ctrategy that would serve as a post-delisting management plan for the GYE grizzly bears and their habitat. The conservation strategy is available for review on the IGBC website.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service once again declared the GYE grizzly bear population as recovered and delisted the species in that ecosystem. In 2018, a federal judge once again remanded the final rule and relisted the population under the ESA.

In late 2018, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the intervenors of the States of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming filed a notice of appeal of the decision to re-instate the federal protections.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee, and IGBC all believe that the Yellowstone represents a viable population of sufficient numbers and distribution of reproductive individuals able to provide a high likelihood that the species would continue to exist and be well distributed throughout this portion of its range for the foreseeable future.

Research

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team is an interdisciplinary group of scientists and biologists responsible for long-term monitoring and research efforts on grizzly bears in the GYE. Detailed monitoring information, including annual reports, and research results can be found on the IGBST website.

For the latest information on the Yellowstone Ecosystem, visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Grizzly Bear Recovery page.

[1] The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has not defined ecosystem boundaries for any of the ecosystems across the lower-48 States.

Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee

The Yellowstone Subcommittee meets biannually to coordinate grizzly bear recovery efforts.