Friday, December 2, 2011

Federal Protections Restored for Yellowstone Grizzlies

Although it rarely happens, the legal system listened to the pleas of conservationists last week. The federal appeals court decided that the removal of grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act’s protection was in error. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals negated the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the bears from the endangered species list. The judicial panel based their decision upon the fact that a beetle infestation is destroying the bears’ white-bark pine food source. The beetle issue has been attributed to abnormally high temperatures, which means the grizzly bear is merely the second wildlife species to earn protection due to the adverse effects of global warming. The loss of the bears’ natural food source in the upper elevations in Yellowstone National Park is causing growing concern that the bears will begin to forage in areas of human population. This could cause problems if confrontations arise between the grizzlies and people and livestock. The fact that grizzly bears have already killed several people in recent years does not help to assuage fears. Sadly, this has also resulted in the murder or removal of about 75 bears from the wild in the past year alone, according to studies. The judicial panel took all this information into account. They were also greatly swayed to repeal the decision since the wildlife agency “failed to adequately consider the impacts of global warming and mountain pine beetle infestation on the vitality of the region’s white-bark pine trees.” The damage to the pine trees is a severe issue in and of itself. In some areas the white-bark pines have greater than 90% mortality due to these beetles. The undeniable threat to the Yellowstone grizzly population due to these current conditions solidified the circuit court’s ruling. The bears need to remain under the protections of the Endangered Species Act and with a recovery strategy in place in order to preserve the population in the face of this threat. The efforts to recover the Yellowstone grizzlies in the last 35 years had tripled the population to approximately 600, and it would be foolish to let that success go to waste.

Williams, Carol and Cart, Julie. “Court restores federal protections for Yellowstone grizzlies”. Los Angeles Times. November 22, 2011.

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