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The Planet

The Planet
November 1998 Volume 5, Number 9

Grizzly Fate


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to delist the grizzly bear in Yellowstone.

Is this great news, an indication that this lumbering, resourceful and sometimes ornery embodiment of the western spirit has made a successful comeback? Are Sierra Club agents in Montana pricing cases of champagne?

Hardly.

Said Louisa Willcox, project coordinator for the Sierra Club Grizzly Bear Ecosystem Project, "Grizzly levels in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are about as low today as they were when the population was listed as threatened in 1975. Fish and Wildlife is arguing that the population is sufficient enough to delist because they're equating seeing more bears with there being more bears. In reality, scientific studies show that the bears are just moving closer in to humans partly because of dwindling food sources and habitat." There are currently only a few hundred grizzlies in the region, a minute fraction of the levels when Lewis and Clark passed through. Delisting would remove current prohibitions on killing and harassing the grizzly, a step that would increase human-caused grizzly deaths.

"Proposed oil and gas developments in the Bridger-Teton, Shoshone and Targhee national forests would have to be severely modified or scrapped if the bears - and their habitat - retain their protections," said Willcox. This translates into pressure on Fish and Wildlife to delist the bear, and the Club is afraid this could translate into extinction in the long haul. Grizzly bears are considered a "coal mine canary" species, large barometers of the health of an ecosystem. If bears and their habitat lose Endangered Species Act protections, the untouched land around stream headwaters could also suffer. This spells trouble for human communities and all species whose future is linked to the land.

To Take Action: Call or write U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jamie Clark and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, and tell them that delisting is premature.

Both can be reached at the Department of Interior: 1849 C St. NW, Washington, DC 20240. Babbitt: (202) 208-7351; bruce_babbitt@doi.gov; Clark:(202) 208-4717; jamie_clark@fws.gov.

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper explaining your concerns about premature delisting.

Sign up to participate in our grizzly recovery network: Sierra Club Grizzly Bear Ecosystems Project, 234 E. Mendenhall, Bozeman, MT 59715; (406) 582-8365, fax (406) 582-9417; wildgriz@aol.com.


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