Yellowstone Ecosystem 

Map Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The Yellowstone Ecosystem, or Recovery Zone, includes all of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, as well as portions of northwest Wyoming, eastern Idaho, and southwest Montana. Other federal lands include the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, and the Custer, Gallatin and Shoshone national forests. Federally managed lands make up 97.9 percent of the recovery area’s 9,209 square miles.

Intensive recovery efforts have led to the recovery of the Yellowstone population, with bear distribution greatly expanding beyond the initial designated recovery zone. Grizzly bears occupy 48 percent more of this habitat now than when they were listed. Ongoing population monitoring estimates the population has rebounded to a minimum of 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 USFWS declared the Yellowstone grizzly bear population was a distinct population segment that was fully recovered and removed it from the Endangered Species List. The decision was opposed by some groups and scientists, and a notice of intent to sue to strike down the delisting was filed later that year.

In 2009, a federal judge in Missoula issued an order enjoining and vacating the delisting of the Greater Yellowstone area grizzly 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 strategy that would serve as a post-delisting management plan for the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bears and their habitat. The conservation strategy is available for review on the IGBC website.

In 2017, the USFWS once again declared the Yellowstone population as recovered and delisted the species in that ecosystem. The following year, a federal judge once again struck down the move and relisted the population under the ESA. This action cancelled hunting seasons that were planned on state lands in Wyoming and Idaho for fall 2018.

In late 2018, Montana filed a notice of appeal of the decision to re-instate the federal protections. Montana joined the states of Idaho and Wyoming, along with the USFWS in appealing the court’s decision.

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 Yellowstone. 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 US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Grizzly Bear Recovery page.

Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee

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