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November 17, 2005

Grizzlies Set to be Removed from U.S. Endangered List

The Washington Times reports (Nov. 15)

Grizzly bear populations have recovered to the extent that the species will be taken off the list of endangered and threatened species, Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton is expected to announce today. …

The Bush administration has been under mounting pressure from Western lawmakers, who say that when a species is recovered, it should be delisted to relieve property and, in some cases, hunting restrictions imposed by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee set criteria for recovery in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Those targets have been met, but the bear remains on the list.

Sen. Craig Thomas, Wyoming Republican and a champion of ESA reform, met with Mrs. Norton last month to discuss the delisting.

"I told her that Interior's credibility hangs on this action -- this is what's wrong with ESA. This plan is a good one, has a scientific basis and needs action," Mr. Thomas said after the meeting. …

Cameron Hardy, a spokesman for Mr. Thomas, said the move is a "positive step," but he voiced skepticism about the time it might take to complete the delisting process. "It took 10 years for the bear to recover, it should not take 10 years to get the delisting in place," Mr. Hardy said....

PR Newswire reports (Nov 14.)

Defenders of Wildlife today hailed the grizzly bear's dramatic comeback in the Yellowstone region, but noted that rollbacks in national forest protection by the Bush administration pose a threat to sustaining the bear's recovery. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will announce tomorrow that it will move to declare the grizzly bear recovered in and around Yellowstone.

"The Endangered Species Act has been a roaring success for the grizzly bear in Yellowstone. We can celebrate the fact that the bear has met and exceeded recovery goals," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president for Defenders of Wildlife and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "The Endangered Species Act has done its job, and the wildlife professionals have done their jobs. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has not done its job of ensuring the long-term protection of the bears. By weakening national forest management and eliminating roadless area protections, the White House has created doubt about the lasting recovery of Yellowstone's grizzlies."

In the Yellowstone ecosystem, numbers of grizzly bears have grown steadily since they were first listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. At a low of around 200 animals when listed, the grizzly may now number more than 600 in and around Yellowstone National Park, and the population is increasing between four and seven percent each year. With proper management of habitat and key food sources, scientists estimate a 96 percent likelihood of having a healthy grizzly bear population in the Yellowstone ecosystem for the next 500 years.

"While the grizzly bear has clearly met the recovery goals, by law delisting can only happen when there are legally binding protections in place for grizzly bear habitat on national forest lands," said Clark. "Due to the Bush administration's wrecking ball approach to national forest management, the necessary regulatory safeguards are not in place at this time to support delisting."

The Bush Administration has orchestrated dramatic rollbacks of forest protections that could result in extensive road building and drilling in forests that are now protected. Forest planning rules that once ensured healthy wildlife populations in forests owned by the American people have been changed to eliminate mandatory protections for wildlife and its habitat. …
Sierra Club voices opposition.

Posted by Dave on November 17, 2005 at 08:59 AM | Permalink


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