Focus today, Jan. 12, is on Yellowstone grizzlies after Judge Molloy relisted them-

Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee drafts new plan for grizzly bear recovery in Rockies, Cascades. AP

More on the meeting: Grizzly panel [IGBC] says it can’t meet judge’s requirements for delisting. By Rob Chaney. The Missoulian.

I have been reading this claim ever since Judge Molloy relisted the Yellowstone grizzly, but the news stories never report much of a reason why the IGBC keeps saying this.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

11 Responses to IGBC meets on new grizzly plan for North Casades

  1. avatar Carl says:

    It will be interesting to see how they deal with re-introduction for the Bitteroots and North Cascades.

  2. avatar Barb Rupers says:

    Where are the “key parcels of grizzly bear habitat” that should be purchased? And how is this related to climate change? There wasn’t much information in the article.

  3. avatar JB says:

    “Safari Club International asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday to overturn the September ruling from U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula.”

    In the 9th Circuit? Not likely.

  4. avatar Robert Hoskins says:

    Ralph

    I attended the previous IGBC meeting in Jackson this past fall when these complaints about Molloy’s grizzly bear decision were discussed.

    The short answer to your question is that the FWS is trying to create a legal theory of total discretion to interpret the ESA as it sees fit so as to delegitimize citizen challenges to FWS decisions about the ESA.

    That is, the FWS is still mired in the Bush regime way of thinking–citzens are serfs.

    RH

  5. avatar Gregg Losinski says:

    I am not speaking in an official capacity for IGBC or YES, but I believe the issue is that judge wants absolute guarantees for things, particularily the agreements between all the various agencies. Trying to get such things in writing is a mammoth, if not impossible task, yet via IGBC enough of a climate of mutual agreement has existed over the last 25 years to move the recovery efforts forward. As someone who has watched the sausage being made for numerous wildlife related issues I can honestly say that the spirit of cooperation seen with grizzly bears has been very special and positive and much of the good faith work done in the past could be at risk of being undone. There are very few absolutes in the natural system, expecting absolutes for any recovery when the natural and human variables are always changing is asking a lot.

  6. avatar Robert Hoskins says:

    No Gregg, what the judge is demanding is enforceability and accountabililty from the FWS as well as scientific consistency.

    RH

  7. avatar Gregg Losinski says:

    I believe what Chris is saying is that because of all the different political entities involved that the USFWS currently lacks the authority needed to be able do just that.

    The current agreements are for the most part as binding as they could be. The amount of cooperation between the IGBC agencies and the recovery area agencies really has been far more impressive than many people probably realize. If everything the IGBC has accomplished up until now could only have been accomplished if unbreakable iron clad legal agreements were drafted and approved, very little would probably have been accomplished to recover the bear.

  8. Thank you Robert and Gregg,

    I would like to find out a lot more about this, given my long term interest in grizzlies, including many, many days in their country backpacking, hiking, fishing, etc.

  9. avatar SAP says:

    Gregg , thanks for weighing in. My two cents:
    It would appear that USFWS does, under the ESA, have the authority to make those agreements binding and enforceable. The ESA is a federal law, rather than a set of suggestions. USFWS has express responsibility for implementing that law.

    If the other agencies want grizzlies delisted, they’ll figure out a way to establish binding, enforceable agreements.

    It may be the case that USFWS did not believe they had the authority to insist on such agreements, but — as the law evolves through amendments, application to specific cases, and judicial interpretation — it is becoming clear that USFWS does have such authority.

    No one is arguing that there hasn’t been remarkable and laudable cooperation on getting grizzlies from the low point of the early 1980s to the substantially larger population we see today. Let’s also keep in mind that sometimes that cooperation grew out of conflict, confrontation, and litigation.

    I don’t really see where Judge Malloy is asking for ironclad or absolute guarantees. He seems to be asking for a fairly reasonable standard in his order: some clear actions that will occur if grizzly mortality and population numbers reach unacceptable levels. Seems like this standard could be satisfied by promising relisting if things go south.

    Here’s Judge Malloy’s own summary (p24) of the “adequate regulatory mechanism” element:

    “The majority of the regulatory mechanisms relied upon by the Service — the Conservation Strategy, Forest Plan amendments, and state plans — depend on guidelines, monitoring, and promises, or good intentions for future action. Such provisions are not adequate regulatory mechanisms when there is no way to enforce them or to ensure that they will occur.”

    I also see Malloy’s take on whitebark as being pretty reasonable. The Service’s conclusions on whitebark in the Final Rule are at odds with the very sources they cite (p 27 in Malloy’s order). Malloy makes it very clear that, in many cases, agency experts deserve deference, but not in cases where there is a disconnect between the facts and their conclusions. In such “2+2 = 13” situations, the agency has acted “arbitrarily and capriciously,” in violation of another law, the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946. The APA is a hugely important law in ensuring transparency of agency decision making.

    Reading between the lines, it looks like the whitebark issue partly hinged on the adequate regulatory mechanism issue. That is, IF the fact-conclusion disconnect on whitebark hadn’t been there, AND there were clear, enforceable triggers for what would happen if grizzly numbers plummeted, the delisting might have withstood this challenge.

    The Service would have been saying, “Look, whitebark is probably in big trouble. That could spell big trouble for bears. We’re delisting anyway, but promise we’ll put them right back under ESA protection if certain quantitative thresholds are breached.” Such a direction would have been unsatisfactory to many conservationists, but it could very well have satisfied Judge Malloy.

  10. avatar Cutthroat says:

    Gregg,

    I wonder if the “current agreements” you are referring to include the FWS decision of November 2000 to adopt a plan for reintroducing five grizzlies per year for five years to the Bitterroot/Selway. Does the IGBC consider this decision to be binding still? Also, David Knibb, author of “Grizzly Wars” has shared that he ” think(s) the political stars may be better aligned now to start moving in the Bitterroots than they have been or may ever be again”. What’s your opinion?

    Also, for anyone wishing to catch up to speed on the history of the bear and the recovery efforts almost to current date, I would highly recommend Mr. Knibb’s book.

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