Taxpayers and the grizzly are getting gored

  Dear HCN:

Why is the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee supporting delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear? (HCN, 1/23/95).

After 35 years of research on this population and the expenditure of several million dollars, there still is no reasonable population estimate for the Yellowstone grizzly or a scientifically defensible measure of what constitutes a recovered population.

We know the population is small, probably less than 300 individuals, and isolated. Habitat is much worse than when the grizzly was listed in 1975, and this year perhaps as many as 14 grizzlies were found dead, which suggests a rate of mortality the population cannot sustain.

So why the hurry to delist? It is probably time to disband the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and find a different, more creative approach to grizzly recovery. (I can't wait to see the powerful Western senators defend the IGBC). It is also time to stop pouring federal research dollars down the black hole called Yellowstone grizzly bear research. If all it can do is rationalize weak parameters and conclude, based on shaky evidence, that it is time to delist the Yellowstone grizzly, then we must question the value of this work to the taxpayers who support it.

Matt Reid

Bozeman, Montana

The writer is executive director of the Great Bear Foundation.