Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Senator Steve Daines is still fuming over a pointed exchange with the U-S Interior Secretary last week, complaining the agency is overdue taking action to de-list grizzly bears in Montana.

Daines' frustration over the Interior Department's management of the big bears on both the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems boiled over during at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The flash point was when Interior Secretary Deb Haaland couldn't confirm the targets for taking grizzlies off the Endangered Species List or the current bear populations.

RELATED: Be Careful, Grizzlies in the Bitterroot 

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A tense exchange

"You are the Secretary of Interior, Daines demanded during the hearing. "So if the target is 500, and the actual number is 965, nearly twice the target. Have we recovered?" 

"Senator, I'm happy to ask the scientists when I get back to the Department of the Interior," Haaland responded. "I am not a scientist. I don't want to speculate what the science would say to your specific…"  

Daines interrupted, saying "Well, the science tells us we're well over the targets."

Daines also pointed out Interior is past a commitment to deliver a de-listing decision. Haaland said that the review is still underway.

"Senator, I know the reviews for Montana and Wyoming began in February 2023 and I believe that the Fish and Wildlife Service does not have a date for completion, but I will ask them what it is."

"But when we started in February, it was a 12-month review," Daines responded.


"I can open my calendar up here and now we're in month 15. You're past due," Daines pressed.

"Haaland answered with a simple "thank you."

Daines explains his frustration

Daines told me Thursday he not only wants a decision on the Yellowstone, and Northwest Montana bears, but he doesn't feel the Interior should be pursuing recovery in the Bitterroot, or North Cascades until the Montana and Wyoming situations are resolved.

"There is no reason we should not be delisting the grizzly bear and returning it back to the people of Montana to manage. We have no business thinking about starting to put bears in the Bitterroots and so forth when we haven't delisted the bears in the Greater Yellowstone and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystems. So there needs to be a cease and desist on any further discussions on adding more bears. We've got way, way too many."

It should be noted that the de-listing question continues to be impacted by recent court decisions, including bringing grizzlies back to the Bitterroot

Montana's 'Exotic Noncontrolled Species'

Here's a sample of some of the exotic animals that the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks consider "noncontrolled species" meaning they aren't prohibited unless it falls under Montana or Federal law. For more information about these species and other "exotic noncontrolled species" refer to the guidance from Montana Fish Wildlife, and Parks.

Gallery Credit: Ashley

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