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Three Cheers for Sec. Zinke

Though it has been a very long time coming, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has announced the Yellowstone population of the grizzly bear is deemed recovered and removed from the Endangered Species Act. (ESA)


Just goes to show how a determined Montanan can overcome 42 years of bureaucratic and judicial obstructionism when the cause is just and possessed with reams of scientific data to back him up. But it was not easy.

The grizzly bear of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) (consisting of parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho) was in trouble in 1975. With an estimated population of 136 bears, the GYE grizzly bear was listed as an endangered species and since then the bears have for the most part been left alone...except for the droves of scientists studying them.

The first Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan was developed in 1982 and updated in 1993. This plan, endorsed by both state and federal governments, and a host of NGO’s including a number of anti-hunting groups that agreed the GYE bear population would be deemed recovered when all the recovery plan criteria were met and bear numbers reached 500, which it did in 2007. But rather than cheer the recovery of grizz, the anti-hunting groups sued US Fish & Wildlife Service to block the delisting of the bears. This judicial obstruction of sound conservation science continued until 2017 where the anti’s have either ran out of legal theories about bark beetles and cut-throat trout or USFWS had honed its’ case to the point where the facts were irrefutable, which they are: the Yellowstone grizzly bear is back and it is thriving. Celebrations are in order! Or perhaps not.

Undoubtedly anti-hunting NGO’s will lawyer up with another frivolous suit against USFWS. Just yesterday I heard a piece on the news interviewing an anti complaining “Sure, the grizzly has reached its target population, but the bears should not be delisted as they have not yet been restored to their historic range”…which is true. I wonder how many tree huggers would place priority on the grizzly bear when they realize cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Dallas, and Kansas City and everything in between would have to be razed and turned back into wilderness land in order to restore the grizzly bear’s home range. Not many I would bet. But let’s think about that tomorrow.

Today, let us celebrate Sec. Zinke! Heartiest congratulations are in order sir! You did what your many predecessors either could not or would not and I commend you for it. Enjoy your victory for conservation. But do not be surprised when in the near future you receive a special delivery care of the 9th Circuit from an organization professing to be a “friend” of the GYE grizzly bear.

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