View 3 of the grizzly bear controversy

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories, Bringing back grizzlies splits environmentalists, in a special issue about collaboration in the West.

Seth Diamond is with the Intermountain Forest Industry Association. He has a degree in anthropology and lives in Missoula.

The trouble is that in the past grizzlies were used as a surrogate for a larger issue: more land in wilderness. And that's wrong. If you want to talk grizzly, talk grizzly. If you want to talk wilderness, talk wilderness. It's not honest or productive to have a single, threatened species carry on its back an entire land management agenda.

I worked for the Forest Service on the Rocky Mountain Front (in Montana). Those people had accommodated to bears and bears had accommodated to them. But in the larger political arena, the bears were used as an argument against oil and gas, against logging and so on. And that turned people against bears.

Bears are very adaptable, but they can't adapt to a hostile human environment, and people began shooting bears. Ranchers didn't hate bears. But they were hostile to a legal agenda that groups and agencies used to achieve their land-management goals.

How do you create an environment so that people and industry become supportive of the recovery process? If you look on the ground, you see flexibility. My hypothesis is that grizzlies have a huge capacity to divide people, but also to bring them together. Science can't resolve these tough issues. It's the human element.

The key to the solution is: Don't let the federal government drive our solutions. People have to come willingly to the table. They have to see what they can get out of it.

I wasn't surprised by the agreement. I never looked at the timber industry and grizzlies as being at odds. It was procedures and policies that were blocking things. What sold Hank and Tom to the folks I represent was that they made it clear they wouldn't use the grizzly to create a land-management agenda.

It will be a nonessential, experimental population of bears. That means we can define any rules to manage the population. We will have a citizen management committee appointed by the two governors with the authority to manage. The committee will be made up of people from all sides.

Most people are wildlife advocates, and they will be ingenious about how to accommodate people and wildlife. This isn't our idea - grizzly reintroduction. It's a policy created by the federal agencies. We're responding to it. We're saying that the people closest to the endangered species are best equipped to manage it. Opposition to that idea comes from the stereotype that local people are not wildlife advocates.

I haven't been surprised that the industry supports grizzlies. But I have been surprised by the vehement environmental opposition to our plan. Don't they have better things to do?

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