Most favor the grizzly

  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued a summary of 24,000 public comments on its plan to bring back grizzly bears to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness of Idaho and Montana. Of the 21,000 responses that were petition signatures, 77 percent favored reintroduction, while 23 percent opposed it.


The summary drew criticism from Alliance for the Wild Rockies, which has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the names and addresses of those who commented.





"It's a matter of public record," says Mike Bader, executive director of the Alliance. "We need the information to make a decent evaluation of the comments." Shannon Rose of the Fish and Wildlife Service says the agency decided to withhold names and addresses because some people testifying at hearings feared angering their communities if they commented publicly.


Bader's group favors an alternative that would give recovered bears and their habitat more protection than the agency proposes. He contends that the summary categorized comments as simply "pro or con grizzly" in order to mask significant opposition to the agency's preferred alternative. Laird Robinson, public outreach coordinator on the EIS team, says opinions were taken not as a vote on the agency's preferred alternative but as a baseline for more-detailed groupings. Robinson says the Department of the Interior will respond to the alliance's request soon. A final decision is still a year away.


For a copy of the summary, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Montana, Main Hall Room 309, Missoula, MT 59812 (406/329-3223) or visit www.r6.fws.gov/endspp/grizzly on the Web.


*Taffeta Elliott