Groups Plan to Sue to Stop Delisting of Grizzlies
It wasn't hard to see this one coming.
Today the folks at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Humane Society of the United States, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watershed Project, Great Bear Foundation, and the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance announced their intention to sue the federal government to prevent the removal of grizzlies from Environmental Protection Act protection.
If you recall, back on March 22 none other than Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett announced the agency's intention to removal the bruins from ESA protection as of April 30th. On the same day, Louisa Willcox of the NRDC's Wild Bears Project indicated her group wouldn't stand idly by and allow that to happen.
How this plays out will have a direct effect on Yellowstone, the core of the bears' population in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
While grizzly numbers have been on the rise in recent years, with the ecosystem's current population somewhere between 500 and 600, their habitat continues to be impacted by a range of factors. While development continues unabated in the ecosystem, global warming is having an impact on the bears' diet.
Pine nuts from the whitebark pine tree are a key food for bears in the fall, when they're trying to put on pounds for their long winter siesta. However, warming temperatures are allowing pine beetles to invade the upper elevations where whitebark pines grow and are killing the trees.
Though some biologists say the loss of pine nuts can be replaced by other foods, others aren't so sure.
"In denying the truth about shrinking habitat and mounting development threats, the government is risking the future of the grizzly bear -- an icon of American wilderness," Louisa said today. "Delisting could reverse 30 years of progress toward recovery of the threatened grizzly bear in and around the nation's oldest national park."
By removing ESA protection, the federal government in essence is opening up bear habitat to road-building, logging, and oil and gas development, according to the NRDC.
"Nearly 40 percent of the lands used by grizzlies today in the Yellowstone ecosystem are outside of the designated recovery area, and although the Fish and Wildlife Service counted those bears to conclude that the population meets recovery levels, the agency has not taken steps to ensure they will be able to survive in those areas in the future," the group says.
In their petition alerting the federal government of the upcoming lawsuit, the groups said the grizzly population is threatened by loss of habitat, high mortality, diseases, and the government's failure to use the best available science in deciding to delist the bears.