Politics and Grizzly Bears don’t mix
Politics and Grizzly bears Don’t Mix.
(Author’s note: This is a little dated, but there is a Part 2 and 3 I can add later)
Here we go again. Many times, in these pages I have told you that our outdoor world of hunting, fishing, firearms, and wildlife is not always sunshine and roses. Those of us who pursue our passions in the outdoors do not always agree about everything when it comes to hunting ethics or wildlife management. (Big surprise!)
Not long ago I told you about how the government in British Columbia had unceremoniously banned sport hunting for grizzly bears. The province’s minister of forest lands was quoted as saying the grizzly hunt was not “in line with the values” of First Nations, (a Native American group) other stockholders, and the public. How much of the public that was actually polled about this is unclear.
Now a similar situation has hit home right here in the good ol’ US of A. Recently a U. S. District judge in Wyoming ordered the grizzly bear to be placed back onto the endangered species list and under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Getting the grizzly delisted from federal protection in recent years has been no small feat for those who want to see a managed hunt for the bears around Yellowstone National Park. (It should be noted that the scheduled hunt would not have been within the boundaries of Yellowstone)
After an animal is “delisted”, taken off of the endangered species list, this allows state Fish and Game agencies to manage the animals population and Wyoming Game and Fish Department had a hunt scheduled for this fall, a hunt that had been twice delayed by District Judge Dana Christensen. The grizzly bear had been on the Endangered Species list since 1975.
Game and Fish biologists estimate that the grizzly population in the area to be considered for the hunt at about 750, the quota hunt would have allowed for the taking of 23 bears. Advocates for the hunt say the 23 bears would not have adversely affected the bear population in question and would have allowed for the taking some of the problem bears in the area. Problems reported with grizzlies and hunters, hikers, and ranchers has been growing for several years.
A recent clash with two grizzlies and elk hunters in the Jackson Hole area of Wyoming resulted in the tragic death of a hunting guide, both state and federal attorneys had argued that the delisting and subsequent hunting season for grizzlies would allow for more safety for those living and visiting in grizzly country.
To be fair, like many things in life this is a complicated issue. The judge noted in his ruling that this decision is not about “the ethics of hunting and it is not about solving human or livestock-grizzly conflicts as a practical or philosophical matter.” What the judge talked about here was the court had to decide the merits of this case by answering did the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) exceed its authority by delisting the grizzly from the endangered species list? Again, this is complicated.
In a nutshell part of what the judge said in his ruling is that USFWS failed to consider what was said in two different studies. Bears in the Yellowstone area need the genetic diversity which can only be achieved by connecting with other populations of grizzlies like those in Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. The judge noted that USFWS could delist isolated parts of a population, but must show how this would affect bears in other areas.
So what is the answer to all this? I don’t know. It would be easy for me to go full hunter mode to argue why the grizzly hunt should be allowed. Elk and deer hunters have been complaining for years that is becoming hard to hunt the area outside of Yellowstone because crossing paths with grizzlies is becoming more and more common. Some of the people I know in the area report seeing bears much more frequently and in areas they never saw a grizzly before.
I would not argue with a judge who says he has to rule on case like this not because it is for or against hunting, but because of the legal aspects of the case, what an agency can and cannot do. At the same time I am not so naïve to think that there are not plenty of groups who oppose the grizzly delisting because they don’t want bears hunted anywhere. Groups that think this way and take away the management of wildlife populations from state and federal game managers are a big problem, and always will be.
This controversy is not over and Montana is in the process of trying to delist the grizzly in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.
What can we do as sportsmen? Stay informed. An issue that concerns hunters in an area in another state concerns you as well. Support groups that have your interest as a hunter in mind. Go out and vote. Don’t take for granted that your hunting privileges will always be safe.
Many would argue the Yellowstone grizzly issue has nothing to do with politics, I would maintain that the politics of the groups which bring these kind of lawsuits to court certainly does.