Grizzlies in jeopardy?
by Ludivine GROSJEAN & Emilie ROGER
Last autumn, Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced plans to take Yellowstone‘s grizzly bears off the Endangered Species Act.
The Endangered Species Act, signed by President Richard Nixon in 1973, was a glowing success as regards the recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bears. The grizzly population in this area (the Yellowstone National Park stretches over parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho), increased from a low of roughly 200 in 1975 to more than 600 today. The number of grizzlies has grown at a rate of 4% to 7% per year since the bear was listed under the Act.
The issue today is to know whether grizzlies should be removed from the list or not. Opponents, such as the National Resources Defence Council, argue that this decision comes at an inauspicious time for bears. Two of their major food sources (cutthroat trout and seeds from white bark pine trees) are in deep decline. Moreover, grizzlies are threatened by habitat destruction and persecution, since these animals could be hunted. The Yellowstone Park being insular and isolated, grizzlies are vulnerable and need the safety which the emergency room of the Endangered Species Act represents.
Supporters of the delisting plan contend that bears must be taken off the list. The law has accomplished its three goals: protecting the population, the distribution and the mortality recovery of grizzlies. The National Wildlife Federation believes it is impossible to immunize grizzlies against everything that could possibly happen. It would still be important to control the health of these animals for five years after they come off the list, but today the Yellowstone grizzly herd is large and ready to survive. This would also allow for a new consideration of other grizzly populations, the largest of which is in Alaska, while the others are in northern Montana and parts of Idaho and Washington. Interior Secretary Norton argues that federal protection has worked so well for the Yellowstone grizzlies that it is not needed anymore. She will decide shortly and unilaterally whether to take bears off the list or not.
Sources: « Grizzlies may lose status as "threatened", » The Washington Post 25 November 2005.
« Grizzlies May Lose Protection, » The LA Times 16 January 2006.
« A Bear's Necessities, » The New York Times 18 January 2006.