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Norton To Shelve Plans for Bears

April 25, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Interior Secretary Gale Norton intends to set aside a Clinton-era plan to reintroduce grizzly bears into the Idaho and Montana wilderness, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

For months, some state officials and frightened residents have battled to keep America’s largest predators away from their rural communities.

The decision reflects Norton’s determination to cooperate with governors such as Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, a Republican who sued to stop the plan two days before President Bush took office.

Kempthorne has denounced the Clinton administration for trying to force ``massive, flesh-eating carnivores into Idaho.″

Norton’s aides told the Post she remains committed to expanding the bear populations in Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.

Grizzly bears have roamed western North America for 15,000 years and they are still abundant in Alaska and Canada. But there are only about 1,200 grizzlies left in the lower 48 states, most of them at Yellowstone, Glacier and the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana. About 98 percent of the bears have been driven off their original territory.

The bears have become notorious for their infrequent, but sometimes violent, encounters with people.

Conservationists view the issue as a test of Norton’s commitment to protecting rare species in the face of pressure.

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