Ruling Bears Shocking Impacts
A couple of weeks ago U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula, Mont. ruled the Yellowstone grizzly bear is indeed a threatened species, reversing the March 2007 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the bear.
This ruling, needless to say, shocked the agricultural communities in the Yellowstone area and their respective states. The grizzly bear has been studied more than any other bear in the world and their numbers have increased to more than 600 in the Yellowstone area; Wyoming provides habitat for at least 75 percent of those bears.
Along with more bears comes the need for more habitat, so grizzly range will continue to increase even as we all read about the injury to the sheepherder in the Wind River Mountains a couple weeks ago. He was lucky to live through the incident that occurred while he was protecting his sheep, even though some accounts in the news have said the herder was “injured while the bear was protecting her cubs and their food source.” Excuse me, but I don’t consider sheep a “food source” for grizzly bears. With this new ruling, it will even be more difficult to graze livestock in any area where grizzlies may be.
The environmentalists who brought on the lawsuit against the Bush administration and then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to relist the bear would like to see the grizzly bear south into Colorado and as far west as the Cascades in Washington and Oregon. Also, under the Equal Justice Law, by winning the lawsuit they will be reimbursed for their lawyer fees by the U.S. Government. By winning the suit they not only made money, but struck a tremendous blow to livestock producers in those states. This judge has ruled in their favor time and time again, but a week earlier he did rule against them in the wolf hunting lawsuit. Maybe his conscience was bothering him?
True, the grizzly bear population took a hit in 2008 because of hunters shooting them and other causes, but this action is unreasonable. Maybe this all happened because there are now more grizzly bears out there. More bears, more incidents – it happens with other animals.
What really shocked the agricultural communities is that the judge ruled that climate change and loss of habitat are the main reasons for the decision. It is true that past warmer winters may have caused an explosion in the pine beetle, and therefore the loss of the whitebark pine forests, which results in less whitebark pine nuts – the major food source for the bears in the fall. But, because of current state management and no proof the loss of the nuts will harm the bears, this ruling is just fishing for reasons and completely makes the Endangered Species Act a joke.
A couple of years ago they also used climate change as a deciding factor to list the polar bear, but to use this feeble excuse of climate change without proof is ridiculous. The states have good monitoring that would result in relisting of the bear if its population dropped below a certain number. Now its future is out of our hands.