WASHINGTON - November 15 - Sierra Club expressed concern today over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal to remove federal protections from the Yellowstone grizzly bear, currently listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. The announcement, made by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton in Washington this morning, will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday followed by a 90-day public comment period and has reignited a long debate regarding what is best for the bears of America's first National Park.
"Thirty years ago America made a commitment to Yellowstone's grizzly bears, a tremendous public investment that has paid off. While we salute and celebrate this progress, we cannot afford to gamble with the bears' future," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director. "Removing federal protections for the grizzly at this point would jeopardize the bears' progress, just as we are just starting to realize a return on our investment."
The Yellowstone grizzly bear was first listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. The threats to grizzly bears and their habitat have only been amplified since then. Now, sprawling development, oil and gas drilling, logging, roadbuilding, and off-road vehicles are crowding grizzly bears out of the last pockets of wilderness they need to survive.
"The Yellowstone grizzly bear is an irreplaceable part of America's natural heritage, an icon of all that is wild and free," said Pope. "Without strong habitat protections in place, the long-term survival of the bear requires the safety net of the Endangered Species Act."
The Endangered Species Act has played an important role in helping to increase grizzly bear numbers in and around Yellowstone National Park. But too many threats remain without the Endangered Species Act in place. Management plans for the National Forests surrounding Yellowstone, where many grizzlies find their homes, have yet to be finalized. Managing the Yellowstone grizzly after delisting will cost state and federal agencies an estimated $3.4 million dollars per year -- over a million dollars per year more than current funding levels.
"Taking away these protections will put the last remnants of wild places grizzlies need to fully recover and raise their young at risk from irresponsible oil drilling, unsustainable logging and sprawling development
-- all of which helped drive the grizzly to the brink of extinction in the first place," said Pope.
The best way to ensure that grizzlies will survive into the future is to restore them to a bigger landscape. Specific steps to achieve recovery are:
- Establish a stable source of funding for grizzly bear management and
- Expand efforts to reduce bear-human conflicts through sanitation and
- Improve important but degraded habitat
- Protect remaining wild lands
- Expand the recovery area
- Connect Yellowstone grizzlies to other grizzly populations further
The Sierra Club is engaged in a number of hands-on programs in bear country to help show that, with a little effort, people and grizzly bears can co-exist. These "bear aware" programs inform residents, campers, hikers, and hunters about food storage, bear pepper-spray use and other practical solutions to successfully live with bears.
For more information and to find out how to submit your comments to the USFWS, please visit http://www.sierraclub.org/grizzly/