Yellowstone's Grizzlies Need Your Support
By Tom Valtin
Bush administration says it wants to protect grizzlies, yet it continues
to attack the Endangered Species Act and other protections that
allow the great bear to survive. Efforts to recover lost or imperiled
grizzly habitat have been hugely aided by the Endangered Species
Act, and one of the places recovery efforts have been most successful
is in the Greater Yellowstone Area. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, there are probably fewer than 600 grizzlies left in the
Yellowstone region. Total grizzly population in the continental
U.S. is estimated at 1,200 to 1,400 animals—down from more
than 50,000 in the early 1800's.
One of the final steps in removing federal protections for the
grizzly is already underway. The U.S. Forest Service recently released
its Draft Forest Plan Amendments for Grizzly Bear Conservation in
the Greater Yellowstone Area National Forests, a step which will
further enable the federal government to remove grizzlies from the
Endangered Species List.
Perhaps more than any other North American animal, grizzly bears
embody the true spirit of wilderness. A little over a century ago,
grizzlies still roamed from the plains of the Mississippi to the
Pacific Coast. Now, a tenuous few remnant populations remain in
isolated pockets of the Northern Rockies.
“As a result of industrial logging and road building, increased
motorized recreation, oil and gas drilling, and residential population
growth, grizzly habitat is far less secure than when the population
was first listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1975,”
says Heidi Godwin of the Sierra Club Grizzly Bear Ecosystems Project.
According to leading researchers, current grizzly bear population
numbers are far too low, islands of grizzly habitat are too isolated
from each other, and the area of protected habitat is far too small
to ensure the long-term survival of the grizzly in the Lower 48.
But despite these facts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has
proposed to remove Endangered Species Act protections from the Yellowstone
population of grizzly bears.
“The progress that bears have made so far in their recovery
has been slow, difficult, and relatively small,” says Monica
Fella, a Sierra Club organizer in Bozeman, Montana. “The grizzly
is a tough animal to recover because grizzlies need large home ranges,
remote habitat with little human activity, and their reproduction
rate is working against them—grizzlies are the second-slowest
reproducer in North America.”
Currently the Forest Service is asking for public comments on its
Draft Forest Plan Amendments for the Greater Yellowstone Area National
Forests. These proposed changes to forest management plans will
guide the management of grizzly bear habitat on six national forests
in Greater Yellowstone by determining how much habitat is protected
and what level of protection those lands will receive.
The single most important thing concerned activists can do right
now is send a letter to the Forest Service encouraging the strongest
protections for grizzly bears and their habitat to ensure long-term
viability for bears. While the Forest Service’s preferred
Alternative 2 takes some positive steps, including limits on further
loss of habitat within the grizzly bear Primary Conservation Area,
it falls short of protecting the habitat bears need. The Sierra
Club supports Alternative 4, which best secures a brighter future
TAKE ACTION: Ask the Forest Service for a plan
Protects grizzly bear habitat—Alternative 4 safeguards some
2.9 million acres of currently occupied grizzly habitat outside
the Primary Conservation Area (PCA) that would not be protected
in Alternative 2. In addition, Alternative 2 would allow loss of
key grizzly habitat within the PCA through more roads, logging,
and oil and gas development. Alternative 4 would protect these lands
and prevent further habitat destruction.
Keeps remaining wildlands wild for bears—Alternative
4 protects roadless areas, the most important habitat for grizzly
bears. Keeping these areas roadless will retain the wild characteristics
of the habitat that bears need to survive. Alternative 2 has many
loopholes that would allow for loss of roadless lands both inside
and outside the PCA. Additionally, Alternative 2 makes no provisions
for linking the Greater Yellowstone to bear populations in other
Expands food storage requirements to all national forests—Every
year grizzlies are killed because they get into human food and garbage,
making them a threat to people and property. This could be prevented
if food and trash were properly stored in our national forests.
Alternative 4 would mandate that all area forests put in place forest-wide
food storage requirements.
Please send written comments by November 12 to: R2 Grizzly Bear
Amendments, c/o Content Analysis Team, P.O. Box 22810, Salt Lake
City, UT 84122-2810. Fax: (801) 517-1021; or e-mail comments here.
For more information please visit the Sierra
Club Grizzly Bear Project Web site, call (406) 582-8365 or e-mail
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