In 2007 federal protections were dropped for the protection of Yellowstone grizzlies. Ever since then, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition have been fighting to give protection back to the bears. They argued that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) failed to address the loss of essential food sources for the bears, whitebark pine seeds and cutthroat trout.
On Monday, September 21 they finally achieved what they were fighting for when Judge Donald Molloy ruled that inadequate regulatory mechanisms were put in place to manage the bears. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and six other groups, represented by Earthjustice, have a similar case pending in Idaho.
Whitebark pine forests are being decimated by a variety of threats that have emerged in high elevation environments as a result of climate change. Researchers worry that the trees, and the major food source for bears, are on the road to extinction.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service tried to pretend there wasn’t a problem, even as two key grizzly foods, cutthroat trout and whitebark pine, collapsed and mortalities went through the roof. A record 79 bears died last year, or 13% of the population, according to federal estimates.” – Louisa Willcox, senior wildlife advocate for NRDC
The judge’s decision came off scientific evidence that the grizzly’s habitat is in decline and cannot support the bear population. At least 18 bears have already been found dead in the Northern Rockies this year, and the population continues to crash. Federal protection is back for the bear, but environmental groups have been working hard to get whitebark pine on the endangered list as well. If the tree gets on the endangered list it will also provide additional protection for grizzlies. You read more about the petition below.
NRDC’s whitebark pine petition is available at http://docs.nrdc.org/legislation/files/leg_08120801a.pdf
Source: Nature Resources Defense Council
Image Credit: Lance McCord on Flickr