BILLINGS, Mont. – A panel of wildlife officials says it's time to lift Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.
An Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee spokesman says the panel's members voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of ending the federal protections.
The committee's recommendation will now be considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency could propose a rule by mid-2014 to end protections.
Scientists say there are now more than 700 grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming following a decades-long recovery.
Revoking the animal's threatened species status would open the door to limited hunting, but other conservation measures would stay in place.
Environmental groups worried about climate change say it's too early to take the bears off the threatened list.