Federal and state officials under the auspices of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) will soon be holding their winter meetings in Missoula and Bozeman (see igbonline.org). You have your hands full. The IGBC, overly focused on grizzly bear deletions in the Northern Continental Divide (NCDE) and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystems, will hopefully put the rose-colored glasses aside and the re-emerging issues of habitat loss, rapidly increasing recreational use and declining use Wildlife consider management.
The state fish and wildlife commissions in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have succumbed to anti-predator hysteria and have authorized unsportsmanlike and unsustainable killing of wolves that also threatens grizzly bear harm and death. The Species Protection Act (ESA) prohibits the removal of listed species. To take means to “harass, injure, pursue, chase, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect or attempt to engage in such conduct”. Grizzly bears caught in traps lose claws, toes and feet and are killed by the anti-wolf regulations that also threaten lynx, wolverines and many other species.
To delist a species from the ESA, adequate regulatory mechanisms must be in place. Current federal wildlife management regulations are worlds away from adequate, and the federal government has its own problems.
For example, Flathead National Forest has abandoned the road management rules that have helped the NCDE grizzly population to thrive and is giving up ground it has gained. And the Flathead abuses the special use permit that allows companies to operate in public national forests. Now they appear to be backing and potentially involved in the rustic and historic Holland Lake Lodge within the NCDE Grizzly Bear Recovery Area into an upscale four-season resort. This would result in a dramatic increase in visitor usage and an expanded impact on a wide area of public lands and could set a precedent in the future. This should trigger an alarm within the IGBC. The Flathead warden who led the Holland Lake fiasco and road tracing in grizzly areas is the chair of the IGBC’s NCDE subcommittee in what appears to be a conflict of interest.
The 1975 ESA list identified isolation as the main factor threatening the survival of the grizzly bear. Population numbers in the NCDE and Yellowstone areas have increased significantly, but remain genetically isolated from each other and at population levels too low to be viable over the long term. Linking these populations into a collection of populations or a metapopulation would preserve and enhance genetic diversity and is absolutely necessary to achieve long-term recovery.
The state of Idaho and the Bitterroot National Forest in western Montana are reluctant to admit that grizzly bears have arrived in the Greater Bitterroot Ecosystem. One barrier to connectivity is US Forest Service road construction and logging projects that span tens of thousands of acres in key habitat connectivity areas.
Add everything In addition to the impacts of climate change, there are serious long-term threats to grizzly bear habitat, new sources of illegal harvesting, inadequate regulatory mechanisms, and ongoing genetic isolation.
Grizzly bears don’t need a victory on paper, they need the mitigation of the increasing threat to their existence. As of this writing, deleting grizzly bears in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming and their state administration would result in the same mindless management we see with wolves, and we can trace nearly 50 years of progress in restoring grizzly bears to their historic habitat down the drain , along with our image. But you can stay at a luxury resort on public land at the expense of native wildlife if you can afford it.