FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jocelyn Leroux, Western Watersheds Project, (406) 960-4164, firstname.lastname@example.org
Keith Hammer, Swan View Coalition, 406-253-6536, email@example.com
MISSOULA, Mont. –– Today, more than two dozen organizations sent a letter to Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Hank Worsech asking for more time to comment on the Statewide Grizzly Bear Management Plan. The new plan was released earlier this week with a short thirty-day comment period spanning the heart of the holiday season. The groups requested that Director Worsech make his decision immediately so that people can plan accordingly.
“Releasing the draft management plan for a 30-day comment period over the holidays is a strategic move to minimize public involvement,” said Jocelyn Leroux, Washington and Montana director with Western Watersheds Project. “This is unacceptable considering the implications of this document detailing long-term grizzly bear management in the state. An extension of the comment period is essential.”
“Thirty days is the absolute minimum required by Montana law for this public comment period,” said Keith Hammer, chair of the Swan View Coalition. “Whether Fish, Wildlife and Parks will extend it another 30 days to compensate for the busy holiday season will indicate how much they really care about the needs of people and grizzly bears.”
“It took the Grizzly Bear Advisory Council months to go through all the technical information,” said Michele Dieterich, who served for more than a year on Governor Bullock’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council. “The public deserves enough time to read through the extensive plan, clarify points, ask questions of FWP, and compose comments. A mere 30 days over the holidays when FWP offices will be closed just does not cut it.”
In addition to the difficulties presented by the holidays, the organizations cite the technical nature of the documents released for public comment which totals 468 pages.
“Asking people to comment by Jan. 5th, 2023 on a plan and analysis containing hundreds of pages is the opposite of meaningful public engagement,” said Adam Rissien, rewilding coordinator with WildEarth Guardians. “If Governor Gianforte’s administration truly wants to hear from Montanans on the future of grizzly bear management, it must show a good-faith effort and at least extend the deadline, if not also provide public meetings to explain the plan and hear from the people.”
“As Montana’s state animal, the grizzly bear is important to all Montanans, who deserve ample opportunity to review a plan with particularly serious implications for the bear’s future,” said Louisa Wilcox, co-founder of the Grizzly Times. “Allowing a mere 30 days to examine a scientifically complex plan during this busy holiday season is both cynical and inadequate; the proposed comment deadline extension is critical to providing all citizens a fair chance to participate in this important democratic process”
“Four of the six grizzly bear recovery areas designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are wholly or partially in Montana, therefore it is critical that the state gets it right in this management plan,” said Bonnie Rice, Wildlife Campaign Manager for the Sierra Club. “In order to do that, Montana needs to carefully consider public input and give people the opportunity to craft meaningful comments. A 30-day comment period on a grizzly bear plan of such significance, spanning the holiday season, clearly does not honor the spirit of giving people a chance to weigh in on a subject they care about deeply.”
“There really isn’t any reason the state can’t allow 60 days or more for the public to review and comment on the proposal,” said George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch. “The Great Bear isn’t going to be delisted anytime soon, so taking time to listen to the public isn’t going to delay implementation of the plan.”
“To allow only 30-days for the public to comment on a plan on behalf of a species that is so iconic to the American west, is a disservice to the profession of wildlife managers and to the collective science of all who have participated in the gathering of such information over these many years,” said Clint Nagel, president of the Gallatin Wildlife Association.