Grizzlies on the rebound?The fight to protect the remnants of Ursus horribilis is picking up steam, but many roadblocks remain.
THEY SNACK ON HUMAN arms, faces, and buttocks buttocks /but·tocks/ (but´oks) the two fleshy prominences formed by the gluteal muscles on the lower part of the back. occasionally. Yet this threatened species also represents what's really worth keeping in our outback forests.
They've been shot, trapped, poisoned, chased, and vilified nearly to extinction in the Lower 48 states--perhaps as few as 750 remain versus an estimated 100,000 two centuries ago. Yet they star at Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks Glacier National Park, United States
Glacier National Park, 1,013,572 acres (410,497 hectares), NW Mont.; est. 1910. Straddling the Continental Divide, the park contains some of the most beautiful primitive wilderness in the Rocky Mts. as the most intelligent, photogenic photogenic /pho·to·gen·ic/ (-jen´ik)
1. produced by light, as photogenic epilepsy.
2. producing or emitting light.
1. , adored creatures on display.
A few have been killed by park rangers for committing anthropophagy an·thro·poph·a·gus
n. pl. an·thro·poph·a·gi
A person who eats human flesh; a cannibal.
[Latin anthr (eating humans). But though the griz has dispatched some 20 souls in the Lower 48 during this century, it is receiving new support from the general public, wildlife biologists, and even from volunteer researchers who venture forth to collect their scat--the fresher the better.
The enigmatic grizzly bear grizzly bear or grizzly, large, powerful North American brown bear, characterized by gray-streaked, or grizzled, fur. Grizzlies are 6 to 8 ft (180–250 cm) long, stand 3 1-2 to 4 ft (105–120 cm) at the humped shoulder, and weigh up to , Ursus horribilis, is in for increased protection in an initiative that involves more than a dozen national forests, four national parks This is a list of national parks ordered by nation. Africa
In an 11-year-old program that's picking up new steam, a government interagency in·ter·a·gen·cy
Involving or representing two or more agencies, especially government agencies. Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan, with copious public input, has created a half-dozen bear-recovery areas in key ecosystems in the four states. The areas, which link up with similar recovery areas across the border in Canada, encompass a whopping 40,000 square miles--about the size of Kentucky--and for good reason: An adult male griz, which generally shares his range with other bears, might require 1,000 square miles for food gathering. Plus plenty of privacy from human intruders.
True, national parks and Forest Service Wildernesses already offer grizzlies The name Grizzlies may refer to:
n See irregular feeding.
1. actions of herbivorous animals eating growing pasture or cereal crop.
2. area of pasture or cereal crop to be used as standing feed. See also pasture. . But some key portions of the recovery areas are on roaded national forests where such activities--plus hunting and sometimes poaching--are common. National forests like the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie, Okanogan, Idaho Panhandle, Kootenai, Flathead, Bridger-Teton, Gallatin, Clearwater, Targhee, Bitterroot Bitterroot, river, United States
Bitterroot, river, c.120 mi (190 km) long, rising in SW Mont. and flowing north to join the Clark Fork River near Missoula. , and Lolo are thus constituted.
On a portion of the Targhee National Forest immediately west of Yellowstone National Park Yellowstone National Park, 2,219,791 acres (899,015 hectares), the world's first national park (est. 1872), NW Wyo., extending into Montana and Idaho. It lies mainly on a broad plateau in the Rocky Mts., on the Continental Divide, c. , for example, a National Parks magazine writer complains of clearcut logging, with its loss of cover for the grizzlies.
"The question now is how well (the bear) can recover, given the damage that logging . . . has caused to the Targhee," states Elizabeth Hedstrom.
Though the original bear-recovery plan looked more impressive on paper than on the ground, recent developments fuel some optimism:
* In what one outdoor magazine calls a "bear explosion," Montana reportedly is experiencing record sightings of grizzlies, particularly in Glacier National Park. There's even a move afoot in Montana to remove the grizzly from the list of threatened species.
* A newly released Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan update strengthens the whole concept and more sharply defines the responsibilities of cooperating agencies. The Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and other participants had previously drawn the recovery areas on a map, but the update will guide resource managers on the ground as they actually make the plan work--no easy task.
* On the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and neighboring national forests in Washington, significantly increased bear sightings in recent years may soon lead to the establishment of a new grizzly-recovery area in the North Cascades The North Cascades are a section of the Cascade Range of Western North America. They span the border between the Canadian province of British Columbia and the US state of Washington. . Stretching from the Canadian border southward south·ward
adv. & adj.
Toward, to, or in the south.
A southward direction, point, or region.
south some 120 miles to Interstate 90, it would include valuable habitat in North Cascades National Park North Cascades National Park, 504,781 acres (204,436 hectares), N Washington. Located in the Cascade Range, the park has outstanding alpine scenery, including high jagged peaks, glaciers, icefalls, hanging valleys, and mountain lakes in high glacial cirques. and in six designated Forest Service Wildernesses.
Where does timber production fit into all of this?
"The grizzly isn't terrifically affected by logging--if timber sales are planned for a time when the bears aren't there," says the Fish and Wildlife Service's Doug Zimmer, a member of the North Cascades Grizzly Recovery group.
As for hiking, Zimmer foresees temporarily closing certain trails in the newly classified areas--for example, those in low, swampy areas in the spring, when bears are known to be there.
National forest managers, meanwhile, have a bear-sized job in the recovery effort as they encounter some hikers who want a "safe" (meaning grizzly-less) outdoor experience--just one component in complex forest-management plans that include the needs of loggers, miners, and cattle/sheep ranchers for whom business usually comes before bears.
Adds Gene Lassard at Forest Service headquarters, "The grizzly-recovery plan may, in fact, be the first severe, here-and-now test of the Forest Service's emerging new emphasis on ecosystem management."
Can we really save the griz under this accelerating program?
"We can live with the bear if we can flex a bit," Zimmer affirms. "If we can't, they can't last."
ALTHOUGH SOME PROGRESS has been made to at least stabilize declining grizzly-bear populations in the Lower 48 states, the bears in two ecosystems remain in jeopardy of extinction. They are the Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Ecosystem in north-west Montana, containing 10 to 15 animals, and the Selkirk Ecosystem in north Idaho, with 15 to 25 bears.
Unfortunately, the habitat of these bears is located in prolific timber-production areas. As more and more roads are built to access harvesting sites, once-secure grizzly habitat is opened up to human intrusion.
In both ecosystems bear mortality is confined almost exclusively to poaching poaching: see cooking. from or near roads. Although the Forest Service has reluctantly gated some roads, these closures are mostly ineffective. Off-road vehicles easily breach them. The Forest Service has been slow to accept permanent road clusures, which require tearing up the first 100 yards of road, recontouring to the land's natural grade, and replanting. Once a road is built, ORV ORV
off-road vehicle interests exert significant political clout, which in most cases negates any permanent closure.
Within the last year, poaching has reduced by one-third the number of reproducing females in each of these two ecosystems. And the young-of-that-year of the poached poach 1
tr.v. poached, poach·ing, poach·es
To cook in a boiling or simmering liquid: Poach the fish in wine. females have not been located and are presumed dead. Because of the bears' critically low numbers, these latest poaching episodes may have pushed the bears in these ecosystems into extinction. Even though the Endangered Species Act The federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) (16 U.S.C.A. §§ 1531 et seq.) was enacted to protect animal and plant species from extinction by preserving the ecosystems in which they survive and by providing programs for their conservation. mandates extraordinary action in such situations, agency inertia and political hostility prohibit the implementation of timely and meaningful action.
As timber harvests drop to some semblance of sustainable levels, timber companies--in order to deflect responsibility for years of overharvesting--are now pointing the finger of blame at grizzly-bear recovery efforts. As a result, misinformed timber workers, facing an uncertain employment future, are targeting the bear as the cause of their misfortune.
If the grizzly is to be saved from extinction in these ecosystems, new roads into previously secure habitat must not be constructed and existing roads must be immediately destroyed following the completion of timber-harvesting activity.
Herbert E. McLean, a frequent contributor, has observed many of Alaska's grizzlies without incident, but always with plenty of caution.