(ENDANGERED SPECIES) A small victory for grizzly bears in the Rocky Mountains: they will stay on the endangered species list! Read on for why the United States Court of Appeals believes the Fish and Wildlife Service acted too prematurely when taking them off the list in 2007. — Global Animal
Thanks to a federal appellate court ruling last week, grizzly bears in the Rocky Mountains will continue to enjoy protection as an endangered species. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service had not only acted prematurely when it removed the bear from the endangered species list in 2007 but had ignored clearly documented threats to the animal’s food supply — in effect putting politics ahead of science.
The core of the bears’ habitat and a major source of their food — whitebark pine forests — have been devastated by climate change. Historically, harsh winters protected these forests from infestations of the pinebark beetle. But the beetle has prospered as winters have warmed, killing hundreds of thousands of acres of whitebark pine. The court explicitly acknowledged the role climate change has played in the destruction of these forests.
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s argument has been that grizzlies are doing well (and presumably would continue to do well) even without the pine seeds from whitebark pines. The court rejected that, writing that the agency had ignored a well-established relationship between “reduced whitebark pine seed availability, increased grizzly mortality, and reduced grizzly reproduction.”
Federal protections have allowed the grizzly population in the greater Yellowstone region to triple to about 600 animals over the last 35 years. But, in view of the dwindling food supply, the court said, now was not the time for a “damn-the-torpedoes approach to delisting.”
What seems to be driving the agency’s calculations is the unending hostility of ranchers and hunters to protecting top predators like gray wolves and grizzlies. All the more reason to make sure the bear stays on the Endangered Species List.
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