The tug of war over grizzly bear management continues this week as the Center for Biological Diversity announced their intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). In their notice, the Center says USFWS is in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for not providing an updated 5-Year Grizzly Recovery Plan.
In a press release, they went on to say that not only do they want more grizzly bears in areas that USFWS considers fully recovered, but they also want to introduce more of them across the west. Their ideal recovery plan will include grizzly bears in California’s Sierra Nevada, the Selway-Bitteroot in Idaho and Montana, and the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas in Arizona. This plan would triple the number of grizzly bears currently in the lower-48 states.
“It’s past time the Fish and Wildlife Service created a new grizzly bear plan to follow the science and truly recover these magnificent animals,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “Grizzlies are icons of the American West, but they’re relegated to a small fraction of the lands they once roamed. These amazing animals should live wherever there’s good habitat in the West.”
Recovery efforts have brought their numbers from a few hundred back to 1500-1800; There are about 700 bears in the isolated Greater Yellowstone ecosystem; 800 in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem; 25 to 50 in the Selkirk ecosystem of Washington and Idaho; 45 in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem of Montana and Idaho; and possibly a couple of bears in Washington’s North Cascades.
“The recovery of grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone and Glacier national parks is a noted Endangered Species Act success, but the bruins are far from full recovery,” said Greenwald. “We’d love to see the Fish and Wildlife Service look for new opportunities to recover bears in more of their historic range in the western U.S. and connect the populations in Yellowstone and Glacier with others.”
In 2017 the Trump administration attempted to remove protections for grizzly bears but the decision was overturned in 2018. The court took issue with USFWS’s “piecemeal approach to recovery that ignored the impact of stripping protection from those animals on the rest of the lower 48 population”.
What do you think about the possibility of grizzly bears in the Grand Canyon?