Glacier National Park Taking Comments On Bear Management Plan Revisions

Changes to Glacier National Park's bear management plan, made in part to reflect recommendations stemming from the killing of the "Oldman Lake" grizzly sow and one of her cubs, are open for public review until May 7.

The sow, which gained a reputation as a problem bear for her association of park visitors with food, was killed last August by rangers. While there also was an attempt to tranquilize her two cubs so they could be removed from the park, one of the cubs died when the tranquilizer dart lacerated a jugular vein.

While a Board of Review found no problems with how rangers killed the sow and tranquilized her cubs, it did cite communications problems between rangers and campers in the Oldman Lake Campground, between rangers and a helicopter pilot working with them, and internal park staff communications following the incident.

Among 17 recommendations the review panel made were calls for:

* Informing campers, when applicable, of what's going on;

* Continuing to build "skill sets needed for emergency situations; aviation management skills, skills in all aspects of wild life management, including tactics for removal operations;"

* Developing procedures for properly carrying wildlife; in this instance, the two cubs were carried over the shoulders of rangers;

* Improving the skills of seasonal staff;

* Evaluating "(f)irearms Policy for future training to do the job effectively. Define job expectations better, to include the full range of wildlife management actions. Consider using hunter education simulations to learn where shots should be placed," and;

* Developing "better communications between bear managers within the Park to ensure specific bears are tracked and incidents recorded."

According to park spokeswoman Amy Vanderbilt, the bulk of the changes to the management plan were wording changes to bring Glacier in line with language and definitions used in other parks' bear management plans; to add definitions to clarify things such as a "bear sighting" or "bear encounter;" and to better explain what a "conditioned" bear is. The plan also calls for park employees to have access to on-line bear reporting information, she said.

“The plan and guidelines describe the conditions of how the National Park Service manages Glacier’s bear populations," said Superintendent Chas Cartwright. "These tools also reflect the best available knowledge and management techniques that bear managers can employ."

The findings from the Oldman Lake bear removal action BOR are attached below.

Glacier’s Bear Management Plan and Guidelines are available online on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?parkId=61&projectId=31398. This takes you to Glacier’s “Bear Management Plan” project. There is a menu where you can view all associated documents. The documents highlight suggested changes so viewers won't have to compare different documents to see suggested changes. Written comments may also be submitted to: Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: Bear Management Plan and Guidelines Revision, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, Montana 59936.

AttachmentSize
Bear Removal BOR - Final Report 3-18-10.pdf217.08 KB

Comments

An interesting, and somewhat disconcerting, aspect of this bear management plan was pointed out to me this morning. On page 21 of the draft (http://parkplanning.nps.gov/showFile.cfm?projectId=31398&docType=public&MIMEType=application%252Fpdf&filename=2010Draft%20Public%20Guideline4%2E22%2E10%2Epdf&clientFilename=2010Draft%20Public%20Guideline4%2E22%2E10%2Epdf) the document says people may not photograph bear management operations without prior NPS approval:

8.5 Photography of Bear Management Operations

l) Any photography, still or video, of bear management operations, if done by other than NPS
employees must have the approval of the Chief Ranger or the Chief, Division of Science and Resources Management. Any photography, still or video, of bear management operations must be done under safe conditions. The person in charge of the operation has the authority to establish a safe zone and exclude all personnel not directly involved with the handling operations.

2) Photographs taken are the property of the USNPS (including negatives) and should not be released to public media without the concurrence of the Chief, Division of Science and Resources Management, and the Public Affairs Officer.

3) All personnel involved in bear management operations should have, as a minimum, basic briefing in bear management procedures and appropriate safety measures. This is especially critical with respect to photographers, pilots or others not directly involved in actually handling the bear.

4) Video tapes and still photographs of management actions can serve as a valuable training and public education tool but their value must be weighed against the safety and control concerns enumerated above.

This seems a bit extreme and not entirely crafted with the intent of looking out for the safety of photographers. After all, with today's lenses, you can be a good safe distance away from a ranger and a bear along the roadways or in a campground.

As one photographer put it to me, "In other words, if a park police ranger stops on the road to haze a bear I'm not allowed to photograph that event without a permit - yeah, that's right, it is unlawful to photograph a police officer involved in bear management unless I have a permit from the Chief of the Park. . . as a photojournalist I cannot think of anything more in violation of our (Free Press) rights than telling me I need a permit to photograph a police officer . . .

I can understand their concerns with having photographers taking pictures/video's of their bear management practices. First, a nearby photographer might be disttracting to the bear, and this might take away from the management of the bear's behavior. Second, a nearby photographer acting without permission of qualified NPS staff might be in danger if they are nearby during a bear management procedure. And third, they might not want the public to see images of their bear management practices without their permission, for they could be subject to scrutiny or the bear management media might scare or otherwise provoke the poublic to have a negative belief or feeling towards glacier national park.

After some discussion about this issue with the NPS, they understand my concerns and will make the appropriate modification to the language so that it more clearly describes their intent. . . The way it was written more than suggested something they did not intend . . . We'll wait now to see the final draft, but I have their word that it will be fixed. BTW, they just closed the many glacier road due to bad weather, were are in the midst of a fine spring blizzard . . .

Thanks,
Tony Bynum
http://www.glacierparkphotographer.blogspot.com
http://www.tonybynum.com

Kurt & Tony--

I suggest that you make formal comments during the comment process. That's what the public comment process is for.

I would guess that some NPS folks may want protection from mis-interpreted images of bear management. I would guess that some NPS folks would support more transparency, and prefer a policy that just forces photographers & the public to keep a safe enough distance so that they aren't one more thing the wildlife folks have to worry about (worrying about the bear is enough!). And, to the extent that folks were receptive to Tony's concerns, putting those concerns in the official record lets those folks take credit for listening and adjusting the policy.

"pillages reasonable"??

Here's an update from Glacier: Jack Potter, the park's resource chief, says the rules pertaining to photography only apply to a specific area that has been closed to the public for bear management purposes.

If you're in an open area of the park, frontcountry or backcountry, there's no prohibition on taking photos of bears, rangers, or bears and rangers, he said.

Sounds like a needless asault on the First Ammendment.

If the area is closed, it is unlawful for the public to be there.
If they are worried about their employees taking pictures - tell them to stop. They're employees!
If they're ashamed of what they are doing.........