Yellowstone Grizzlies Lose "Endangered" Status; Critics Growling

Richard A. Lovett
for National Geographic News
March 23, 2007

Citing the recovery of grizzly bear populations in and around Yellowstone National Park, the U.S. government has declared that the bears no longer need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

But conservationists see the move as premature and say it helps clear the way for logging, drilling, and other activities in forests surrounding the park.

"We think it's a big mistake," Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, told National Geographic News.

"We have made a lot of progress in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, but the species isn't established in a sufficiently wide range to be delisted."

The decision to delist the grizzlies was announced yesterday by Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett.

Yellowstone-area bears had been listed as "threatened" since 1975, when population estimates ranged from 136 to 312. Today more than 500 bears roam the area, she said.

"I believe all Americans should be proud that, as a nation, we had the will and the ability to protect and restore this symbol of the wild," Scarlett said in a press statement.

Bears Recovered?

Environmentalists are pleased by the comeback but not by the delisting.

Yellowstone's grizzlies should be considered as recovered when they are no longer isolated from other grizzly populations, said Neil Darlow, a program manager for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

The nonprofit group advocates the creation of a continuous chain of protected habitat stretching from Yellowstone to Canada's Yukon Territory.

Isolated populations aren't viable in the long run, Darlow said, because they are more susceptible to inbreeding and local extinction from natural or human causes.

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