Recovery of the Grizzly Bear in the Lower 48 Contiguous United States

WHEREAS, grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) are an important part of America's rich wildlife heritage and once ranged throughout most of the western and midwestern United States; and

WHEREAS, the grizzly bear has been listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a threatened species in the lower 48 contiguous United States since 1975, and currently there are only an estimated 800–1,200 individuals remaining in the lower 48 contiguous states; and

WHEREAS, most remaining grizzlies occur in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana, and overall, they continue to occur as small, fragmented populations in only four states, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Washington; and

WHEREAS, distribution and population levels of this species have been seriously diminished due to excessive human-caused mortality and loss of habitat; and

WHEREAS, the Department of the Interior, through the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), is mandated through the ESA to take actions necessary to conserve and recover all endangered and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend; and

WHEREAS, the final Environmental Impact Statement for grizzly bear recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem was published in March 2000 and, consistent with this EIS, the Record of Decision and proposed special rule were adopted in November 2000 by the US Fish and Wildlife Service; and

WHEREAS, the recovery plan involved the release of 25 grizzlies into nearly 6,250 mi2 (16,188 km2) of the Selway–Bitterroot and Frank Church–River of No Return wilderness areas over a 5 year period; and

WHEREAS, the grizzly bear reintroduction plan established a citizen management committee composed of local citizens, state and federal agency personnel, Nez Perce tribal officials, and scientific advisors to oversee the process, and entrusts day-to-day management of the reintroduced grizzlies to this citizen management committee; and

WHEREAS, this reintroduction plan was the product of over seven years of hard work, compromise, and unprecedented levels of public involvement in the process, had acceptance from virtually all interested parties, and was designed to avoid the rancor that accompanied the reintroduction of endangered gray wolves (Canis lupus) to the same area; and

WHEREAS, this recovery plan is truly remarkable in its planning and public involvement and could serve as a valuable model for implementation of recovery efforts for other large carnivores to ensure more effective and less controversial recovery efforts; and

WHEREAS, the Selway–Bitterroot Ecosystem (SBE) is one of the largest contiguous blocks of federal land remaining in the lower 48 states and, of all remaining unoccupied former grizzly bear habitat in the lower 48 contiguous states, the SBE has the best potential for grizzly bear recovery, primarily due to the large wilderness area; and

WHEREAS, the final EIS on grizzly bear recovery states that the SBE offers excellent potential to recover a healthy population of grizzly bears and to boost long-term survival and recovery prospects for this species in the contiguous US; and

WHEREAS, the current administration will spend over $300,000 on grizzly bear recovery in FY2001, yet has budgeted none of it for the SBE recovery effort; and

WHEREAS, an explanation offered by the current administration is that they wish to see the Yellowstone bear population taken off the threatened species list before they establish a new population in Idaho; and

WHEREAS, the big picture of grizzly bear recovery in the lower 48 contiguous states is one that takes into account all five fragmented populations simultaneously, not one fragmented population without consideration of the others, and one highly significant aspect of the SBE is that it is located centrally between all 5 remaining fragmented grizzly bear populations, thereby providing connectivity between these populations so critical for movements between populations and adequate gene flow, which in turn strongly increases chances of long-term survival; and

WHEREAS, although some opponents of grizzly bear recovery make the argument that this is a states rights issue, there is no question that when it comes to the ESA, there clearly is a federal mandate, and, after involving the states and other interested parties, the federal government has to step up and take responsibility; and

WHEREAS, Congress recognized that the goals of the ESA could not possibly be accomplished without federal action because the pressure of local interests makes it virtually impossible to adequately address the needs of many listed species; and

WHEREAS, grizzlies remain a striking symbol of wild America and of its transformation by humans, and are a true marvel of nature and rightfully deserve to be recovered within suitable areas of its former range so that future generations can enjoy seeing them in the wild and the ecological integrity of their ecosystems can be maintained;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the American Society of Mammalogists, assembled at their 81st Annual Meeting at the University of Montana, Missoula, on 16–20 June 2001, call on the Secretary of the Interior, who is ultimately responsible for carrying out the mandates of the Endangered Species Act, to closely reconsider all of the careful, ground-breaking efforts, compromise, and public involvement that have gone into the Selway–Bitterroot ecosystem grizzly bear recovery plan and actively pursue the reintroduction into this wilderness area of Montana and Idaho as an integral step towards recovery of this species as mandated by the Endangered Species Act, and to not allow the recovery of a federally listed species to be dictated by the governor of one state, and call on Congress to fund fully grizzly bear recovery in the lower 48 contiguous states, including the Selway–Bitterroot ecosystem.