Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Groups Sharply Divided On FWS Decision On Grizzly Bears

Mar 22: Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett announced that after nearly disappearing three decades ago, grizzly bears are thriving in the Yellowstone ecosystem and no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Scarlett said, "The grizzly's remarkable comeback is the result of years of intensive cooperative recovery efforts between federal and state agencies, conservation groups, and individuals. There is simply no way to overstate what an amazing accomplishment this is. The grizzly is a large predator that requires a great deal of space, and conserving such animals is a challenge in today's world. I believe all Americans should be proud that, as a nation, we had the will and the ability to protect and restore this symbol of the wild."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said it is removing the Yellowstone population of grizzly bears from its status as "threatened" on the U.S. list of threatened and endangered species. Four other grizzly populations in the lower 48 states have not yet recovered and will continue to be protected as threatened species under the Act. Grizzly numbers in the Yellowstone ecosystem have increased from an estimated population of 136 to 312 when they were listed as threatened in 1975, to more than 500 bears today.

Larry Schweiger, president and CEO, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said, “Yellowstone grizzly bear recovery is the best kind of proof that the Endangered Species Act is effective in protecting wildlife for our children’s future. The nation’s safety net for imperiled wildlife works, and the American people want it to stay that way.” Steve Torbit, director of the NWF's Rocky Mountain Natural Resource Center in Boulder, CO said, “A key Endangered Species Act objective is to achieve self-sustaining populations in the wild. That objective has been achieved in Yellowstone, where the recovery goals for number of grizzlies, their distribution and mortality have been met or exceeded. The 1993 Yellowstone grizzly bear plan defined three specific recovery benchmarks that have all been achieved, qualifying bears for release from the Endangered Species Act’s emergency room protections."

Sierra Club expressed concern over the U.S. FWS's announcement to remove federal protections for the Yellowstone grizzly bear, currently listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director said, "Thirty years ago America made a commitment to Yellowstone’s grizzly bears, a tremendous public investment that has paid off. While we salute and celebrate this progress, we cannot afford to gamble with the bears’ future. Removing federal protections for the grizzly at this point would jeopardize the bears’ progress just as we are just starting to realize a return on our investment."

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a release saying the government plan was “deeply flawed,” and indicating it will pursue every avenue possible, including a lawsuit and Congressional action, to protect the bears from being hunted and their habitat from being exploited for large-scale real estate and energy development. Louisa Willcox, director of NRDC’s Wild Bears Project said, “The government is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. When you consider that they were nearly extinct 30 years ago, Yellowstone’s grizzlies have made a remarkable recovery. But they’ve survived only because of the Endangered Species Act, and they’re not out of the woods yet. The bears face grave threats that will be even more daunting if they’re stripped of protected status.” NRDC indicated in their release that the public overwhelmingly opposes revoking the bears’ protected status. The tally of formal comment to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that by a margin of more than 200 to 1 Americans told the government they oppose its plan to strip the bears of Endangered Species Act protections.

Access a release from FWS with links to extensive information on the announcement (
click here). Access a lengthy release from NWF with links to more information (click here). Access a release from the Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). [*Wildlife]