View 6 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.

Keith Hammer heads the Swan View Coalition. He lives in Bigfork, Mont., near Kalispell.

What hit me hardest was that their agreement says the forest plan is adequate and that industry will be exempt from incidental takings of grizzly bears. These are the very issues at stake in the recent U.S. Supreme Court case on the Endangered Species Act. We won there on incidental takings, and this gives it away.

I'm near the Continental Divide ecosystem. We've worked for 12 years on the Flathead National Forest - it's through using these aspects of the Endangered Species Act that we have gotten road closures and road obliterations. Industry knows that. The law says they can't interfere with the life cycle of the bear. Without the force of that law in the Selway-Bitterroot reintroduction area, they won't have adequate management of the grizzly bears. And there will be no way to challenge it. No way to go to court. If I were Seth Diamond, I'd say, "We won the whole thing."

And what kind of bear management citizens' committee will the governors appoint? In Idaho, Gov. Phil Batt took the fish and game guy off the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and put on a timber industry guy. And the Montana governor isn't that far behind.

What's most disappointing to me about this agreement is that they're flushing science and the law both down the tubes for the sake of political expediency. The agencies have done this for decades. Now conservation groups are doing it.

Mine and other grassroots groups have spent years working with universities and other experts trying to integrate science and law. The conservation biology alternative to grizzly bear recovery expresses that integration. It calls for grizzlies in Yellowstone, the Cabinet Yaak Mountains, the Selway-Bitterroot and other recovery areas. But just reintroducing the bears isn't enough. There has to be habitat protection and there have to be undeveloped corridors linking these areas together.

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