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Know the West

View 4 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.

John McCarthy is conservation director of the Idaho Conservation League. He lives in Boise.

The local citizen management committee is the main stumbling block. Everyone except Defenders and NWF in the environmental community opposes local control. We're heading toward a pitched battle.

I think the local folks need to understand that the scientists need to speak for the bears, and the environmentalists need to understand that local people need to be in the room where the decisions are made.

I'm not saying the scientists need to be a majority. But they need to be close to a majority. There certainly needs to be more scientific weight than at present. I'm more flexible than some of the other opponents, but that's because I've lived in small towns in Idaho. I know how difficult it will be to get people in Grangeville to accept bears.

I think the people in Grangeville and Orofino will do good things for bears. Hank and Tom got them to move. That was a lot of good work. They moved the debate to a totally new place. Good, smart people in the timber industry and in the towns are saying, "Maybe we can do it."

The real bummer is that we'll cancel each other out. We can stop them. Local folks in Orofino and the other towns won't manage bears. But without them, will we get bears reintroduced on our terms?

There's a real gap here. At the Alliance for the Wild Rockies annual meeting, it was clear that Hank Fischer couldn't deliver habitat protection. And Seth Diamond quoted phony studies. Experts in the audience refuted him over and over again. So there are no assurances to protect the habitat.

If they have some give in their principles, I'd try to get people together to talk about a more balanced approach.