View 5 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.

Michael Scott recently became program director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Before that, he was with The Wilderness Society. He lives in Bozeman.

There is a lot of overlap in our respective positions about reintroducing bears where they existed in the past. But what role should science and national standards play? That is where we part ways with Hank and Tom and Seth.

First, we want to see a reintroduction formula rooted in science. There has been habitat mapping that says the best habitat for grizzlies is north of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness along the Lochsa River. It has terrific riparian areas that bears would probably move into.

There's no problem with an experimental population, but let's base it on science. Let's think about what the bears will do when they're there. Let's put in some protection for the habitat the bears will use.

Second, who makes the life and death decisions about the grizzlies? Is it a committee appointed by the governors? Or is it the agencies that have the legal authority working with citizen advisory committees? We don't like the notion of turning life and death decisions over to a citizen committee.

Let's say we get into a major disagreement. Under their approach you have no normal appeal process. You have to ask the secretary of Interior to withdraw the experimental process which gives the citizen committee their power. Our alternative is that it should be like other decisions federal and state agencies make, with the citizens as an advisory group.

If you set aside the habitat and the decision-making issues, a lot of the issues could probably work out. There's a positive sense on the part of everyone up there (in central Idaho) to reintroduce grizzlies. That's great. We don't see why a broadly representative advisory committee wouldn't be acceptable.

Our basic concern is that it was a political decision. They told industry: "Name your price for reintroduction, and we'll meet it as long as we get the bears." But what does that decision mean for red wolves in North Carolina, for example? It could create real problems elsewhere.

We're not trying to use bears as a surrogate for anything else. We're concerned about the bears, and their chances for survival.

High Country News Classifieds