The Grizzly Bear is Back!
By Tiffany Chaparro
Federal officials said the number of grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park has almost tripled since the bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. They estimate that more than 600 grizzly bears now live in the Yellowstone area, including parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
"This has been a very long process," Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said. "People involved in the effort felt strongly the time had come to acknowledge recovery of the bear."
The Endangered Species Act makes it illegal to kill protected animals and requires federal agencies to check with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before starting projects that could harm the animals.
If the grizzly bears are taken off the list it will be up to state wildlife officials to protect the bears, instead of the federal government. So stripping the bears of protection could eventually clear the way for grizzly hunting.
Bears in regions other than Yellowstone will continue to be protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Conservation groups are split on the move. The National Wildlife Federation supports removing the bears off the list.
"We have reached all of the recovery targets and exceeded them for a number of years," said Thomas M. France, head of the group's Northern Rockies office.
The Natural Resources Defense Council thinks that it's too soon. Even though the number of bears is healthy, they said, some of the bears' important food sources are disappearing. And without any federal protection of the bears' habitat, the bears may be forced to leave the park to find food.
"The bear is out of the emergency room, but is certainly not ready to be released form the hospital," Louisa Wilcox said, director of a bear project for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The grizzlies were first declared a threatened species in 1975 because of shrinking numbers and loss of habitat. They reproduce slowly and need lots of land.