BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Native American groups are pressing for permanent protections for grizzly bears, a species some tribes consider sacred but that has been proposed for hunting in Wyoming and Idaho.

Tribal representatives were scheduled to appear Wednesday before Congress in support of legislation to block grizzly hunting in the Lower 48 states, regardless of the species' population size.

The measure is sponsored by Arizona Democrat Rep. Raul Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Former Hopi Tribe chairman Benjamin Nuvamsa says grizzlies play a central role in the traditions and ceremonies of many tribes.

But there's growing pressure from state officials to allow hunting because of grizzly attacks on livestock and occasionally people.

A federal judge blocked grizzly hunts last fall days before they were scheduled to begin.