After a four-year, $250,000 effort, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its draft plan for restoring grizzly bears in western Montana and central Idaho. Now, Sens. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, want to cut the project off at the knees.
Hailed by many as a
groundbreaking compromise between the timber industry,
environmentalists and organized labor, the agency's environmental
analysis proposes four options for grizzly bear recovery in the
Selway-Bitterroot Ecosystem (HCN, 5/13/96). The preferred
alternative proposes introducing the bears as a "nonessential
experimental population" in some 6,000 square miles of wilderness.
That means the bears could be killed if they are caught killing
livestock or threatening humans.
governor-appointed management committee, comprised of citizens from
both states, would oversee the bears' restoration and review damage
to livestock and other conflicts as cases occur. The committee is
unusual, says the National Wildlife Federation's Mike Roy, because
it "increases authority and responsibility of local people."
Other options in the assessment include
restoring grizzlies as fully protected endangered species, no
federal reintroduction, and active prevention of grizzly bear
recovery. "We spent a lot of time putting this (EIS) together so
people would have the benefits of all the information," says the
agency's grizzly bear recovery coordinator, Chris Servheen. "We
want people to read it, think about it and let us know how they
Burns and Craig say the 440-page draft,
Grizzly Bear Recovery in the Selway-Bitterroot Ecosystem, is weak
on science. In an amendment to the Department of the Interior's
appropriations bill, they want to cut the environmental review
process's budget to $75,000. Matt Raymond, spokesman for Sen.
Burns, says the money would go toward a bear census and continued
public comment. "We want to put the brakes on (recovery) until the
science is there," Raymond says.
If the senators
succeed, grizzly recovery will be stalled at least a year. Hank
Fischer, Defenders of Wildlife's Northern Rockies representative
and a participant in the collaboration that led to the preferred
alternative, calls the amendment a bad resource policy. "Simply
saying "no" without offering suggestions just cripples any kind of
public process by which we might find a solution," he says.
* Emily Miller, HCN
You can ...
comments until Oct. 9 to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bitterroot
Grizzly Bear EIS, P.O. Box 5127, Missoula, MT 59806,
* Attend one of six public hearings in Idaho
and Montana planned for August, or,
Sen. Burns, 202/224-2644 or Sen. Craig,