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LOUISIANA BLACK BEAR LISTED AS THREATENED SPECIES

 LOUISIANA BLACK BEAR LISTED AS THREATENED SPECIES
 ATLANTA, Dec. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- The Interior Department's U.S.


Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) as a threatened species, granting the animal official protection under the Endangered Species Act.
 The listing is based primarily upon the loss of and continued threat to the bear's habitat, according to service officials.
 The service assessed information received during the comment period from the general public, the scientific community, conservation organizations and the timber industry regarding the past, present and future threats faced by the species in making the decision to list the bear. Threatened status is defined as likely to become endangered within the forseeable future throughout all or a significant part of its range.
 Endangered status was not conferred, according to service officials, because threats to the Louisiana black bear population, while serious, will not place it in imminent danger of extinction.
 The black bear, once found extensively throughout Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and parts of eastern Texas, is a large, black-haired mammal with a short tail, small eyes and a yellow-brown muzzle. Suitable habitat for the bear has been reduced by more than 80 percent with encroaching civilization -- to the extent that the animals exist only in the Tensas and Atchafalaya River basins of Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi.
 James W. Pulliam Jr., the service's southeast regional director, said the decision to list the species was prompted by the past and potential continued decline in bear habitat and numbers. "This listing emphasizes the immediate need to promote the conservation and scientific management of the species to ensure its long-term survival," he said.
 Included in the ruling is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to allow normal forestry operations in habitats the bear occupies. Those operations are deemed by the service to be compatible with the preservation of the species.
 The Fish and Wildlife Service was petitioned in March 1987 to list the bear under the Endangered Species Act. The service determined in 1988 and 1989 that the species was warranted for listing, but precluded by other species in more immediate need of protection. During that time, the service conducted further studies on the subspecies' taxonomic status with regard to genetics of the Louisiana black bear.
 By the summer of 1990, the service had recognized "demonstrable threats" to the species and proposed, in June 1990, to list the bear as a threatened species. Subsequent public comment periods and hearings resulted in comments that were considered in arriving at the decision to list the bear as threatened.
 Service officials commended the efforts of the Black Bear Conservation Committee, a group established in 1990 to assist in proper management of the Louisiana Black Bear. The group is composed of professional resource managers representing federal, state, and private wildlife conservation agencies; representatives of the timber industry; and scientists from colleges throughout the Southeast. Their goal is to conserve and manage the bear in its native habitat.
 -0- 12/30/91
 /CONTACT: Vicki M. Boatwright or Tom Thomas of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, 404-331-3594/ CO: United States Fish and Wildlife Service ST: Louisiana, Mississippi IN: SU: EXE


BR-BN -- AT009 -- 5748 12/30/91 17:10 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Dec 30, 1991
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