Grizzlies not ready for delisting


It is premature to conclude that the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears is recovered “to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this (Endangered Species) Act are no longer necessary” (“Grizzly Face-Off,” HCN, 5/16/16).

Grizzlies have come a long way in four decades, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to be applauded for its efforts. But grizzlies occupy only 2 percent of their historic range, and the bears of Yellowstone remain an isolated population. Where once there were 50,000 to 100,000 in the Lower 48, there are now approximately 2,000, with some 717 bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

They may be tenuously recovered, but compliance with the Endangered Species Act is about more than hitting pre-determined numeric targets. Compliance requires that the best available science be used to ensure that recovery can be sustained into the future, which means that appropriate policies and mechanisms need to be in place to keep the species recovered. The recent delisting proposal is lacking the necessary oversight mechanisms.

Current conditions surrounding grizzly recovery are surely a recipe to exercise the Endangered Species Act’s well-defined “precautionary principle,” which states that if there is doubt about an animal or plant’s exact conservation status, the approach that would cause the strongest protective measures to be realized should be chosen. 

The cost to taxpayers to recover grizzly bears to the current levels is measured in tens of millions of dollars and decades of time. It would be irresponsible to risk all that time and money, unless we are certain that recovery that can be sustained over time.

William Nelson
Wyoming Wildlife Advocates 

Wilson, Wyoming

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