U.S. to lift safety net for Yellowstone grizzlies

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Dec 25, 2002
About time! Comment email address at the end of this article. Maybe they'll let the states manage the the wolf populations next, that'd be a big win.


WASHINGTON - Noting that the grizzly bear population in the Yellowstone area has thrived in recent years, the Bush administration on Tuesday announced that it plans to remove federal protections for the animals in the areas around the national park.

“A population that was once plummeting towards extinction is now recovered,” Interior Secretary Gale Norton said in making the announcement. “These bears are now no longer endangered” and should be removed from the Endangered Species Act listing.

The Interior Department, through the Fish and Wildlife Service, implements the Endangered Species Act.

“We are sure that these bears will have the habitat that they need,” Norton added.

Significant recovery
Federal wildlife officials estimate that more than 600 grizzly bears live in the region surrounding Yellowstone in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. They also describe as healthy an annual growth rate over the past decade of 4 to 7 percent.

Those numbers represent a significant recovery. Only 200 or 250 grizzlies were in that region in 1975, when grizzly bears in the lower 48 states were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Once in the hundreds of thousands, the bear population dwindled in the West early in the last century in large part because of hunting and destruction of the animals’ habitat.

If the grizzlies are removed from the list, the three states would assume management responsibilities from federal wildlife officials and have greater flexibility in dealing with bears. Stripping the bears of protection could eventually clear the way for hunting grizzlies in that region.

While grizzlies inside and outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks would be delisted, bears within the parks would remain federally protected and could not be hunted.

Activists split
The Interior Department on Tuesday also announced a 90-day comment period before a final decision is made.

But any delisting could be delayed by a court battle, since some conservation groups oppose the move.

Tom France, regional director for the National Wildlife Federation, said his organization believes removing bears from federal protection in the Yellowstone area is long overdue.

“All of the recovery goals for grizzly bears in Yellowstone have been met or exceeded,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

“A sound foundation is in place to ensure that grizzlies continue to thrive after they are released from the emergency room care of the Endangered Species Act,” he added. “Part of that foundation is extensive monitoring so that if problems arise, corrective action can be taken.”

But other environmentalists say the bears still do not have adequate protections to ensure their long-term success.

“The agencies are in a state of denial about what’s happening on the landscape,” said Louisa Willcox, of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Willcox said bear habitat is being chipped away by development, oil and gas drilling, logging and road building. She feared that delisting grizzlies would loosen restrictions on those activities, reducing habitat further and increasing the likelihood of bear-human conflicts.

Four other grizzly populations in other parts of the lower 48 states will continue to be protected as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Comments on the plan are being accepted through Feb. 16. They may be emailed to [email protected]
Take some of those extra grizzlies and release them in the Selway-Bitterroot.

Oh wait the Bush Admin axed those plans
Take some of those extra grizzlies and release them in the Selway-Bitterroot.
How about releasing them into Central Park in NYC, or in Washington DC ? :p

As it stands now, if you have to shoot a grizzly to defend yourself then you are probably in more trouble than if you shoot a person :(

I can't believe the articles that I've read about taking horseback tours in Yellowstone. I sure as heck wouldn't want to take a horse of mine in there to be preyed on by wolves and/or grizzlies, and not have a firearm for defense.:uhoh:
Grizzlies May Lose Status as 'Threatened'. Plan Would Allow Limited Hunting...

Grizzlies May Lose Status as 'Threatened'
Plan Would Allow Limited Hunting of Yellowstone Bears, Development in Habitat

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer

The Bush administration today will take the first step toward removing Yellowstone's grizzly bears, a living icon of the American West, from the nation's endangered species list.

The proposal to delist grizzly bears in the area surrounding Yellowstone National Park, a plan that has alarmed some environmentalists, highlights contrasting views of the 32-year-old Endangered Species Act. Proponents of the government's move say the grizzly's recovery marks a rare victory for the controversial law; others say the decision may undermine protections for a still-vulnerable group of animals.

If the administration drops the bears' current "threatened" status after a public comment period -- a move that would not take place until the end of 2006 at the earliest -- officials in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming would be free to allow limited hunting of grizzlies and would not have to maintain the same level of protection on the grizzlies' habitat. ("Threatened" is the less restrictive of the two categories of listings under the act.) The government would continue to monitor how state and federal authorities manage the land where the bears live, to ensure their survival.

Craig Manson, assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks at the Interior Department, said the agency considers Yellowstone's grizzly population, which has rebounded from a low of about 200 in 1982 to more than 600 today, "recovered." Federal biologists have informed him that "adequate habitat and adequate habitat protections are in place" for the bears, he said.

"We know more about this population of grizzly bears than any population of grizzly bears anywhere," Manson said, adding that the department will monitor the animals' health for five years after the bears come off the list. "We're going to have an excellent picture of the health of this population well into the future."

But Louisa Wilcox, who directs the Natural Resources Defense Council's wild bears project, said delisting would place the grizzlies' critical habitat in jeopardy. The bears range over nearly 9 million acres in and around the national park, she said, but the administration's proposal only covers a 6 million-acre habitat.

"We would love to see the grizzly bear delisted, but it's not ready," Wilcox said, adding that one-third of the bears' current habitat could be opened to drilling, logging and human development under the agency's plan. "If you want to protect bears for future generations, you have to protect the habitat they need. This plan doesn't do it."

If the administration takes Yellowstone's grizzlies off the list -- the public will have 90 days to comment on the proposal -- the grizzly will become the 18th endangered species to be declared recovered under the Endangered Species Act. Nine endangered species have gone extinct, and the government has delisted 13 species that were listed erroneously.

Yellowstone boasts the largest grizzly population in the lower 48 states, though there are a few smaller groups living in areas such as the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem near Canada, Montana's Cabinet Yaak wilderness and Idaho's Selkirk Mountains. Grizzlies are thriving in Alaska, where more than 30,000 of them live.

No one questions that Yellowstone's grizzlies have rebounded over the past three decades since they were listed -- the population has been growing at a rate of 4 to 7 percent annually for several years -- in part because state and federal officials abolished trash dumps that used to lure bears and bring them into dangerous contact with humans.

But the recent revival also has sparked conflict with nearby residents as the bears venture out of the national park. Dominic Domenici, the Fish and Wildlife Service resident agent in charge of enforcement for Montana and Wyoming, said there "are more conflicts now between elk hunters and bears," in part because the whitebark pine seeds grizzlies need are in shorter supply now from a beetle infestation induced by warming climate.

Some environmentalists say the decline of the whitebark pine is yet another reason why the grizzlies should remain listed as threatened, as the seeds are closely linked to female bears' fecundity.

But National Wildlife Federation senior wildlife biologist Sterling Miller, who spent 21 years studying grizzlies in Alaska and now lives in Montana, said the time has come to take Yellowstone's bears off the list.

"You can't immunize them against everything bad that can possibly happen," Miller said. "That's a prescription for a permanent listing."

And John Emmerich, assistant wildlife division chief at Wyoming's Game and Fish Department, said environmentalists are not showing enough faith in state officials who have spent years and millions of dollars helping promote the bears' recovery. While the state plans to allow hunting "as a management tool," he added, officials would make sure it does not hurt the grizzly population, and hunting would not begin for at least a year.

"People will see in time the states will do a good job with delisting the grizzly bears," Emmerich said. "We're one of the primary reasons we've got a recovered population."
The proposal to delist grizzly bears in the area surrounding Yellowstone National Park, a plan that has alarmed some environmentalists...

Anything alarms the environmentalist faction of the leftist extremists. If they were to find out I drink tea, they'd be upset.
And that's why we need a Constitutional right to arm bears! :)
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