Following up on his recent talk at Patagonia HQ, Doug Peacock just sent us the following letter on behalf of Yellowstone Grizzlies. Make sure and click the "Continue reading" link for details on how you can help. Your support is greatly encouraged and appreciated.
On March 29, 2007, the Department of the Interior removed federal protection for Yellowstone’s grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). On April 29th this “de-listing” will take effect. Only a challenge in federal court can stop this final ruling.
I believe this decision will mark the beginning of the end of the grizzly in the contiguous states. Here are three reasons:
Insofar as the Yellowstone population’s de-listing is based onestimates of the number of bears, the removal of ESA protection for thegrizzlies in and around Glacier Park (where the data on numbers isconsidered more reliable) will soon follow.
Second, de-listing mayrepresent one of the most destructive actions this administration hasyet taken against the natural world, largely because the Yellowstonegrizzly delisting policy was developed hand-in-hand with thegovernment’s denial of the existence of global warming—an unimaginablefirestorm approaching us all—and this proposal reflects that lingeringignorance.
Finally, the myopic and political removal of Yellowstone’sgrizzlies from the Endangered Species list effectively eliminatespractical discussion of the linkages necessary for countless species ofplants and animals that will need to move northward and higher tosurvive. I’m saying that our best chance of keeping alive and pragmaticthe visionary idea of interlinking corridors (like those proposed bythe Wildlands Project, Yellowstone to Yukon, the Northern RockiesEcosystem Protection Act and others) is the attainable goal ofconnecting the isolated grizzly ecosystem of Yellowstone northward toCanada. Without the protection that was afforded the bear under theESA, the opportunity to complete those linkages will soon be cut off byhuman development and Yellowstone will remain the island that refutesour grand dreams for connectivity. The grizzly still affords the widestavailable biological shoulders upon which countless plants and animalsmay hitch a ride in their struggle to adapt to rapidly shiftinghabitats.
The decision to remove Yellowstone’s grizzlies from the ESA can nowonly be reversed by a suit in federal court. Legal arguments willrevolve around about bear biology. Here are some concerns:
- The greatest climatic changes in history are now facing theYellowstone ecosystem and already threaten major bear foods. Whitebarkpine, and the nuts it produces, is arguably the grizzly’s mostimportant fall food. A two-degree warming since the 1970s has renderedthese trees vulnerable to blister rust and beetle infestation;whitebark pines are dying and could be eliminated from Yellowstone Parkwithin a few decades. Remnant stands of trees would survive only in thecoldest outlying regions of the ecosystem, namely the Wind River Rangeof Wyoming. With de-listing, management of this last refuge for pinenut eating grizzlies will be turned over to the state. Wyoming’s bearmanagement plan would not permit significant numbers of grizzliesanywhere in the Winds and none at all in the southern half of the range.
- The Forest Service and Wyoming post de-listing management plans areinadequate for grizzly survival. The number of bears in Yellowstone hasrebounded because the grizzly was listed on the ESA in 1975. TheFederal Wildlife Service has credibly administered this policy and theyshould keep doing it. The FWS currently claims that it can make“adjustments” or re-list the bear if the Yellowstone grizzly populationagain plummets. But it will be too late by then. The states lack theresources to monitor the number of grizzlies. This is not the time fora change in the great bear’s status.
- There are other issues, other food problems, but the nut remainsthis: the Yellowstone grizzly is an island ecosystem surrounded by asea of human industrial and commercial development chewing up theremaining habitat needed for the genetic and physical linkage tonorthern populations and necessary for long-term survival. On top ofthat, great and uncharted changes driven by global warming are comingto us all.
- Grizzlies are touted for their adaptability and ability to find newfood sources. They should be as well suited to survive the predictedwave of extinction as any wild animal—except for the attitudes,personified by intolerance and greed, of people who historically havekilled them and destroyed their habitat. Sometime in this century Homosapiens must contend with real threats to our own survival and mayrecognize in the face of the adversary those same human attitudes.During these times, a vigilant generosity towards the natural world isnot inappropriate; may we hope for a distant reciprocation.
This note is my first, and perhaps last, fundraising letter. I wroteit because of the enormous and destructive importance of thisgovernmental action: We cannot afford to allow the final ruling toremove the bear from the ESA to slip through uncontested. I also wroteit because of my unmitigated faith in the people of the Bozeman office of Earthjustice to do the work.
Youcan support the legal efforts to protect this magnificent species bywriting a check to Earthjustice, indicating that your contributionshould be allocated to the Grizzly Delisting case. The cost ofexpert witnesses, court costs and attorney time for a case of thismagnitude will likely exceed $500,000. If you have the means and mightconsider making a substantial donation toward this case, please call Doug Honnold at Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699, with any questions or to discuss it further. All levels of support are greatly welcomed: checks may be sent to Earthjustice, 209 S. Willson Ave., Bozeman, MT 59715.
I urge you to contribute to this fund in any way you can, includingsending a copy of this letter to all similar-minded friends. If youare with a group or organization that has other urgent priorities,please forward this letter to appropriate supporters who may beinclined to help. Please feel free to contact me personally at any time.
For the wild,
[With thanks to Doug, Earthjustice and localcrew. Photos by Doug Peacock]