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A protective firewall for Yellowstone grizzlies

grizzly 610, looking for danger

Grizzly sow #610  looking around for the danger to come

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear, snow storm, Yellowstone National Park

The delisting of the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear is imminent and this we should celebrate (‘’’’dancing’’’’). Now that our happy dance is complete, we must insure the grizzlies’recovery is permanent. To insure “continuity of achievement,” the grizzlies need a firewall to protect the success of this achievement from human foible.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) was formed in 1983 to help ensure recovery of viable grizzly bear populations and their habitat in the lower 48 states through interagency coordination of policy, planning, management and research. Many people have been working on this recovery for decades, for some; it has been most of their career. I can understand why the delisting of the grizzly before their retirement is their goal. A metaphorical gold watch if you will.

Wrestling Grizzly Bears

Wrestling Grizzly Bear cubs. These are the two year old cubs of Grizzly #399.  I met a guy one day that wants the pelt of Grizzly 399 on his wall because because she is known world wide, she is a better trophy.

Many will argue differently, but I believe that our “isolated” population of grizzlies has recovered; albeit tenuously, and I don’t have a problem with the delisting. The problem is, as the delisting of the wolves demonstrated; a hunting season for grizzlies will soon follow. I believe a hunting season is a freight train coming at us we can’t stop! Managing grizzly bears for the Game and Fish departments is expensive, and they desire to recoup some expense with grizzly bear hunting tags, but their real savings will be the killing of bears. All we can do is hope to mitigate the outcome by providing a firewall, a fall back zone where the grizzlies will never be hunted, an incubator of sorts.

Social tolerance” is the term used by grizzly managers when considering the human factor intersect. Social acceptance is a tough sell for those who fear predators might hurt their children along the wildland-urban interface; grizzly advocates must understand this as we move forward with our mitigative efforts to insure a long-term grizzly recovery. If the residents on the outskirts of our towns and ranchers along the periphery of your National Forests can protect their property, social acceptance for grizzlies in our wild areas will grow. If people keep getting attacked outside Livingston, and grizzlies are harvesting apples in St. Anthony, or trying to den in garages in Driggs, social tolerance will shrink. We need to cultivate social tolerance, not risk it.

A long faced grizzly bear wondering why the Wyoming Game and Fish is about to put a price on his head.

A long faced grizzly bear wondering why the Wyoming Game and Fish is about to put a price on his head.

My social tolerance for grizzlies is high because I have one of the 155+ easily discernable jobs created by grizzly bear tourism. Because of my familiarity, I understand bears aren’t out to get us. I consider them “Revenue Bears,” Game and Fish doesn’t. Every hotel and restaurant of the Greater Yellowstone communities are beneficiaries of “Revenue Bear” tourism. I wish we wouldn’t have a hunt, but as a pragmatist, I don’t have a problem with a limited hunting season for the grizzly bears.   What is good for the wilderness isn’t necessarily good for the outskirts of Cody Wyoming, Bozeman Montana, and St Anthony Idaho. Although hunting will kill some bears outside the wilderness, I believe it will encourage bears who learn to fear humans to stay in the wild areas. In the wild areas they will be out of people’s back yards, and away from ranches. We have many black bears where I live in Swan Valley Idaho, but I never see them because they are hunted. I see their tracks; I hear them busting through the woods and across the creeks when they hear me in the area. Because they are hunted, they avoid people.

Grizzly Bear six ten glowing in the morning sun in Grand Teton National Park

Grizzly #610 who basks on the glow of critter celebrity will be an easy target after a hunting season is instituted on her home turf.

Our Wyoming, Idaho and Montana Game and Fish departments who are also part of the IGBC, will argue that Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks are the safety zone firewall that will protect the grizzlies. I counter point; if Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks could protect them, why did the population crash to start with? That is why the alphabet soup of agencies of the IGBC in 1993 created the more logical and demonstrably effective “Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone”; known today as the “Primary Conservation Area (PCA).”

The PCA has fostered the glacial pace yet successful recovery we enjoy today. This Primary Conservation Area is 9,210 square miles equaling 5,893,760 acres. This original “Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone” has to be the firewall “no hunting zone” to insure the “continuity of achievement” of the Grizzly Bear Recovery effort.

A firewall protection zone for grizzlies

Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone

Wyoming Game and Fish thinks 7,229 square miles equaling 4,626,560 acres is adequate. “I’m sure Montana and Idaho Game and Fish agree. Clearly that would infringe on the range the Grizzly Recovery efforts deemed important essential recovery habitat.

Grand Teton Grizzly Bear looking at a Mountain Bluebird

Grand Teton Grizzly Bear looking at a Mountain Bluebird

The IGBC Recovery Plan states; The PCA contains “The Minimum ” seasonal habitat components needed to support the recovered grizzly bear population, as defined in the Recovery Plan. “A recovered population is one having a high probability of existence into the foreseeable future (greater than 100 years).” (Note) This statement in the recovery plan was drafted before the crash of the essential food sources, white bark pine and the Yellowstone cutthroat trout populations.

Alert momma grizzly and cubs in the Greater Yellowstone

Alert momma grizzly and cubs in the Greater Yellowstone

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are also part of the IGBC, whose mission statement says; “ Work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.” However upon grizzly delisting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is inclined to capitulate to “states rights” putting the future of grizzlies in the hands of those who find them a nuisance and expensive; hence, rendering their mission statement meaningless.

We hold these grizzly truths to be self-evident; hence, for the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team’s, team members, the Wyoming Game and Fish, Montana Game and fish and Idaho Game and Fish to institute a hunting season within the boundaries of the “Primary Conservation Area,” not only would be reckless, it would be ludicrous!

Let’s not let this happen!

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Grizzly Bears – Images by Daryl Hunter

2 thoughts on “A protective firewall for Yellowstone grizzlies

  1. gregg harr says:

    If we can’t stop the delisting this is the best solution, I’d make it for wolves too.

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