Activists from a coalition of environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club and Earthjustice have mounted a vigorous campaign against taking federal threatened species protection away from Yellowstone’s beloved grizzly bears per a recent proposal by the Bush administration.
According to the government’s proposal, any of the area’s 600 grizzlies that roam out of Yellowstone National Park boundaries would be fair game for gun-toting ranchers incensed over the prospect of losing cattle to the giant predators as well as for sport hunters in search of the ultimate trophies. Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say the bears, which have tripled their population in the Yellowstone area since they were protected under the Endangered Species Act, have recovered to sustainable population levels, and that the individual states involved will make sure the grizzlies are not harassed unnecessarily.
Environmentalists beg to differ. Louisa Willcox of NRDC thinks that delisting doesn’t make sense until Yellowstone’s grizzly population numbers at least 2,000 bears. “The bear may be out of the emergency room, but it’s certainly not ready to be released from the hospital,” Willcox says.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comments on its Yellowstone grizzly delisting proposal through mid-February, at which point they will make a final and binding decision on whether or not to retain federal protections for the bears. Comments can be submitted directly by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.