Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem griz said to be doing well-

The Greater Yellowstone ecosystem grizzlies were delisted a couple years ago, but then relisted by Judge Molloy. Now the head of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee foresees delisting the larger population of Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzlies. That is Glacier National Park, the Great Bear Wilderness, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Scapegoat Wilderness, the Rocky Mountain Front, the Mission Mountains Wilderness, the Whitefish mountain range, and other lands around them — a big area.

I think he is likely right. This ecosystem is much more productive of grizzly bear food than the Greater Yellowstone, and it hasn’t taken as many habitat hits as the Greater Yellowstone.

Biologist predicts grizzly bears’ removal from endangered list. By Chris Peterson. Hungry Horse News

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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.

17 Responses to Servheen predicts Glacier National Park area grizzlies could be delisted in next 5 years

  1. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    This will be interesting to see. It’s strange how people seem to focus on the GYE much more than this one.

  2. avatar monty says:

    Question: The Bob Marshall/Glacier complex has more lower elevations and richer plant life but does it have more elk and deer than Yellowstone which sounds illogical? Yellowstone has bison that I assume is important grizzly food. Does Bob Marshall/Glacier have more dense forests and less grasslands than Yellowstone. What I am asking is what is the major habitat difference between these two areas?

  3. avatar Mike says:

    monty- I’m no expert but the Glacier area is more diverse, with more species of animals and plant life. This is due to a slight pacific influence west of the divide, and a direct undeveloped prairie connection east of the divide. I know that the Bob Marshall area has one of the largest elk herds in the nation. White tail deer are all over the place west of the divide. So are mule deer. I see mostly mule deer in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. There are lots of moose too. I do know that this is one of the best places for bighorn sheep and mountain goats as well.

  4. monty,

    I think a very big difference is that the Glacier area has a lot more plant food for grizzlies to eat, and as Mike points out, there is an influence from the Pacific Ocean (moisture).

  5. avatar Ken Cole says:

    I’ve never understood the piecemeal way that the DPS’s are divided up. It seems less likely that central Idaho will see any natural recovery if individual population segments are delisted rather than having recovery occur in a “significant portion” of their range.

    As a friend of mine keeps saying, there will be no reintroduction of griz into central Idaho because of the wolf issue. He’s probably right but that doesn’t mean that natural recovery should be stifled by delisting, and thus reducing or eliminating the chances of natural recovery.

    There is a whole lot of unoccupied grizzly habitat in the Selway and Frank Church let alone in areas surrounding this.

    Drawing a line around a population then calling it recovered doesn’t seem to jive with the ESA. Also, what about metapopulation exchange? The GYE is totally disconnected from other populations and there is a lot of habitat in between that is suitable except for the lack of corridors connecting them.

  6. avatar Cutthroat says:

    I would agree with Mike and Ralph’s comments and add that the discussion of habitat differences wouldn’t be complete without mention of the importance of berries in Glacier and Whitebark Pine seeds in YNP. I believe it a common misconception that bears primarily feed on flesh when the foods thought most responsible for reproductive success, providing high calorie intake prior to hibernation and (in the case of the Whitebark Pine seeds) keeping bears at high elevation and out of trouble with humans are berries and seeds respectively. The trend toward “functional extinction” of the Whitebark Pine, coupled with the lack of a suitable replacement food source such as berries in YNP, being a key reason for Judge Molloy’s relisting in YNP.

    I like Ken Cole’s reasoning. It seems, once again, there is a lack of commitment to restore bears to Bitterroot/Selway, which as he says would constitute a “significant portion” of their former range. What I seem to be hearing is, “let’s rely on NGO’s and private citizens to provide habitat for linkage and bears to find there way”. I fully support this strategy but believe with the available bears and pressure on other zones, augmentation should be pursued more fervently and hope to see it in the plan for 2012 (though I feel it a shame we have to wait that long when there is already a valid plan in place).

    As far as the wolf issue getting in the way of reintroduction in Idaho I’ve thought this the case for some time as well. At the same time it shouldn’t matter. As David Knibb has stated,” Waiting for Idaho’s politicians to take the lead is, in my judgment, a waste of time. And this is a national, not a state issue.” National pressure needs to be put on this administration to take action and the IGBC should lead the way.

  7. avatar Monty says:

    Thanks for the comments.

  8. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    The GYE is totally disconnected from other populations and there is a lot of habitat in between that is suitable except for the lack of corridors connecting them.

    Ken, is this what the Yellowstone to Yukon initiative is supposed to be about?

  9. avatar JimT says:

    What does Doug Peacock think?

  10. avatar Marc Cooke says:

    I spend time in the Bob Marshall every summer working for a friend that is an outfitter. All of the guest we take in are out of state sightseers. I cant say I see alot of the white bark pine but I see lots of huckleberriers and pastures with willows and creeks. Most of the griz I see in there are eating insects, berries and believe it or not dead horses and mules before the forest service can vaporize them with expolsives. Give this some thought and tell me what you are thinking. Let me go back in time a couple of years. John McCain is running for President and he mentions on many occasions that why are we spending tax payer money to study DNA in Bob Marshall and Rocky Mountain Front Griz. This bill was introduced by Conrad Burns then a Montana Senator. I can remember being out in the Bob and being told that this would confirm an accurate count on Griz in and around the Bob and RMF. What they didnot tell us was this program was going to be used to try and delist the griz from the ESA and then the energy companies could make inroads into drilling along the RMF and other areas thats in the Griz ‘s range. What is the true motive behind Servheen say the Griz is doing well and delisting is coming soon?

  11. avatar Save bears says:

    I would not call 5 years soon, a lot can happen in that time frame, it was Kate Kendall that did the DNA study to get a baseline for population numbers in the Northern Ecosystem. It had nothing to do with the drilling interests at all and the program was not done to de-list the bear, the program was simply a in depth study of how many bears are in the system and compete data has not even been compiled yet. Having worked in this area and worked with Kate a few times on the DNA study, I can tell you for a fact, she is a dedicated scientist with the bears well being first and foremost.

    USFWS goal is to de-list all of the animals that are on the Endangered Species list that is the goal of the law to protect and increase population numbers of the animals.

  12. I was a bit unsure whether this was really news because 5 years is, as Save Bears says, not soon.

    But I did post it. It’s good reference for folks to remember the difference between the two big grizzly populations.

  13. avatar Cutthroat says:

    Whitebark Pine, I believe to be already “functionally extinct” in Glacier and Bob Marshall. To clarify, I was pointing out the importance of berries in Glacier and Whitebark Pine seeds in Yellowstone, respectively. Incidentally, Kate Kendall was also responsible for the inventory of trees and prevalence of blister rust that has led to their decline in Glacier.

    The results of her Glacier bear DNA study are also available in the “Journal of Wildlife Management-Volume 72, Issue 8 (November 2008)” (subscribers only or pay for single article). More info. is available on Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project website and some cool remote video of hair snags.

  14. avatar Marc Cooke says:

    SB, I dont believe for one minute that this population count had nothing to do with delisting. Furthermore in my eyes nothing good can happen for the greats bears because of this. Its a well known fact that Burns was pushing to drill in the RMF. However this was very difillcult to accomplish with the bears on the ESA or Threaten status. It was never my intent to down play or criticize the study. These paid individuals and volunteers worked long hard hours in difillcult situations. I am not sure where you came up with me questioning their integrity. As for five years it will be here before you know it. However, I do agree much can happen between now and then. All the best, Marc

  15. avatar Save bears says:

    Marc,

    I was just posting my observations from being on the ground and actually working with the leader of this study as well as those who participated in the study. Burns may have pushed for drilling, but he is no longer in office, in fact he is no longer very active after his stroke a while back.

    Ralph agreed with me, that 5 years is a long time. Much of my time working for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks was in this particular eco-system and despite the speculation of some, they are very dedicated people who have the bears interest first and foremost.

    Really you never know what is going to happen, heck Chris may be retired in 5 years..and what he says, could very well be a moot point..

    I didn’t say you questioned their integrity, but you did question their motive, which is what I was addressing..

    Actually Kate has stated she would like to see the great bear stay protected for at least the rest of her lifetime, this was a idea of hers, and she got the funding to do, of course things can and are always prostituted for personal reasons by others, but I don’t for one second believe Kate’s motive was to get the bear delisted.

    You have a great day as well

  16. avatar Marc Cooke says:

    SB, I hope Kate lives to be one hundred. Thanks for your input. I value any and all considerate reasonable dialog. Thanks again, Marc

  17. For anyone still reading this thread, I am responding to ProWolf’s question about the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. Yes, the overarching objective of Y2Y is to reconnect Yellowstone grizzlies to their northern cousins in Canada and the NCDE. Returning bears to central Idaho is the key to this. We work with a broad array of partners who are implementing myriad projects on the ground to increase the likelihood of natural return of bears to central Idaho from the Selkirks and Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem. The death of two grizzlies south of I-90 in 2007 and 2009 is evidence that this strategy may eventually work. Thanks to all for their interest in and hard work for grizzly conservation.

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