Grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone region will stay on the “Threatened” list of the Endangered Species Act, under an appellate court ruling on November 22.
As a frequent visitor to Yellowstone National Park, over a period of several years, I’ve had some encounters with grizzlies; I was in awe of these powerful creatures, as long as I didn’t get too close. Out hiking alone one July morning a few years ago, I rounded a corner to see a medium-sized grizzly sitting just about 100 yards from me. Thankfully, he gave me one look before taking off in the opposite direction!
But Yellowstone Park is their home, not my home, and I am thrilled to learn that these beautiful animals are being protected.
The Story Of Yellowstone Grizzlies
From The New York Times:
The Fish and Wildlife Service has argued since 2007 that grizzly bears and their habitat in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem have recovered enough that bears could be placed under state management plans, which are generally less restrictive than federal endangered species protection.
And the bears were, in fact, removed from the endangered species list from 2007 to 2009, but then the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, a conservation organization, sued, arguing that federal government had not considered the rapid decline of the Whitebark pine, a food source for the bear, or included an adequate response plan should the bear population go into a nosedive.
The district court in Missoula, Mont., agreed, and the government appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit. In its decision, the appellate court agreed only with the lack of analysis of the impact of the declining Whitebark Pine forests, which are being killed by a beetle infestation. The beetles have been able to proliferate in response to climate change; they used to be killed in the coldest days of winter and those no longer regularly occur.
Destructive Power Of Beetles
It’s alarming what damage tiny insects can inflict. Last summer, I spent some time in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, and was horrified to see acres and acres of pine trees turning red and dying, after the mountain pine bark beetle had attacked them. Authorities are at a loss as to how to stop these creatures. And naturally, if so many trees are dying, the ecology of the whole area is changing.
As for the grizzlies, Mike Clark, executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, lauded the court’s findings, saying that the decline of the forests was the single largest ecological change in our lifetime. However, he added that he did not think the bears needed to be forever protected, just better protected.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA)
The ESA was passed in 1973 in order to protect those plant and animal species that are at risk of becoming extinct. Species that receive protection under the ESA are classified into two categories, “Endangered” or “Threatened,” depending on their status (how many are left in the wild) and how severely their survival is threatened. A species that is listed as Endangered is in danger of becoming extinct throughout a significant portion of its habitat range (the areas where it lives).
Long live the Yellowstone Grizzlies!
Photo Credit: iStock
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