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BNSF Railway Co. has applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for an "incidental take permit" (ITP) that would allow for a certain number of grizzly bear deaths by train operations along 206 miles of railway in Montana.
As part of its application, BNSF filed a conservation plan intended to prevent grizzly bears from dying due to railroad operations. Grizzlies have been listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 1975.
If approved, the seven-year ITP would allow for the rail-related deaths of up to 18 grizzlies on the railway between Trego and Shelby, Montana. That segment operates within the grizzly bear habitat in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly recovery zone, according to BNSF's application as published this week in the Federal Register.
BNSF's proposed conservation program includes implementing measures to reduce grizzly attractants, providing financial support to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the Blackfeet Indian Nation for reducing human/grizzly bear conflicts through increased personnel, equipment and education.
FWS is reviewing the application under a categorical exclusion from the National Environmental Policy Act.
Public comments on BNSF's application are being accepted until Feb. 11.