Thursday, May 12, 2016

Taking 'endangered' tag from Yellowstone-area grizzlies could damage the species, critics say

Environmentalists and Native Americans have been vocal critics of the U.S. government's plan "to lift Endangered Species Act protection of the grizzly bear in and around Yellowstone National Park," Laura Zuckerman reports for Reuters. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service formally proposed in March that grizzlies in the Yellowstone area—spanning parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho—be removed from the list of threatened species, citing data showing their numbers have rebounded to healthy levels." The public comment period for the proposal ended on Wednesday. (Reuters photo by Jim Urquhart: A grizzly and two cubs approach a Yellowstone bison carcass)

"Much of the discontent has focused on the prospect of grizzlies in the region becoming open to trophy hunting under state management plans put in place once federal safeguards are removed," Zuckerman writes. There are about 700 grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area, "up from as few as 136 bears when they were listed as threatened throughout the Lower 48 states in 1975, after decades of being hunted, trapped and poisoned to near-extinction."

"Sportsmen and ranchers, who wield considerable political clout in the region, point to growing bear-human conflicts as grizzlies expand their territories in search of food," Zuckerman writes. "Environmentalists argue grizzlies' recovery could falter if they are forced to contend with new pressures posed by hunting of the species outside the park. They caution that grizzlies already face a decline in a key food source, whitebark pine nuts, due to climate change."

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