Yellowstone Grizzly Bears Safer For Now

By the federal government’s last report, there are an estimated 540–660 grizzly bears living in Yellowstone National Park and the national forests that surround it. About 40 percent of the area in this ecosystem now inhabited by the great bears is unprotected from logging, roading, and oil and gas development. Human development is hemming the bears in and they’re having a harder time making a living. Historically, in years when whitebark pine failed to produce large crops of seed-bearing cones, Yellowstone grizzly bears produced fewer cub litters and fewer cubs per litter. Now, with the thousands and thousands of acres of dead whitebark pine trees, every year will be a bad cone year for bears. It’s clear grizzly bears will need help over the long term to survive. The court’s recent ruling keeping ESA protections in place is the right solution at this time.

Yellowstone grizzly bears warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. So says the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which recently upheld a lower-court ruling that rejected a federal government effort to strip the bears of their protections.

When the government “delisted” the bears in 2007, which stripped them of protections under the Endangered Species Act, Earthjustice attorneys went to court to get the protections reinstated. The federal government failed to explain how grizzlies are supposed to make a living now that one of their key foods, whitebark pine seeds, are disappearing. The seeds are disappearing because the trees that produce them are being killed by beetles which are ravaging the high alpine habitat where the trees grow. The beetles are surviving what used to be harsh winters due to global warming.

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