Freudenthal calls for grizzly lawsuits to be filed in Wyoming

People can file the lawsuits in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming. It depends on where it is convenient for the group. Why should an Idaho group have to file in Wyoming? This is a federal issue and there is a federal court in Idaho, one in Montana, and one in Wyoming. It’s plainly obvious there are grizzly bears in Idaho’s part of the Greater Yellowstone. Everyone read about the mauling last weekend near Tetonia, Idaho.

The number of bears in the state doesn’t make any difference legally. Furthermore, the threats to bears are not all in Wyoming and some of the threats, like global warming, are diffuse.

Here’s the story about Dumb Dave the governor and his views on the issue.

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  1. SAP Avatar

    Perhaps an even better question is, how many people will actually gain some practical, day-to-day benefit from the de-listing of grizzlies? How many people’s lives will be measurably IMPROVED in some way?

    I ask, because Governor Freudenthal asserts that Wyoming will be “most directly affected by a ruling concerning delisting.”

    While it’s certainly true that Wyoming is home to the bulk of the GYE grizzly population, it is not self-evident how the state will be affected by a court case over delisting.

    I can see how some number of people do experience some inconvenience, anxiety, and financial loss due to the presence of grizzlies:
    Outfitters, some ranchers, residents of the North and South Forks of the Shoshone River . . . some other locales where there ARE more grizzlies than anytime in recent memory.

    But: if we can believe what we’re hearing from the agencies, de-listing isn’t going to change much of anything. The Conservation Strategy commits everyone to maintaining at least 500 bears. Killing of bears will still be strictly regulated. You can kill a bear NOW (under ESA protection) if it threatens you, so it’s not like you’d be gaining some new right to protect yourself.

    Same with bears that kill livestock or destroy property — they get killed now, and they’d get killed after delisting.

    So, when the Governor speaks of how this will affect his state, how does he mean that?

    Is this purely a symbolic issue?

    The grizzly situation is considerably different from the wolf case. Can anyone dispute that wolves have already dramatically exceeded their recovery goal? I could see how a delisted wolf population could end up being considerably different from the ESA-protected wolf population, in that they could be substantially reduced and they could become substantially warier.

    Yet with grizzlies, the agencies are all committed (through the Conservation Strategy) to maintaining at least 500 grizzlies in the GYE. That’s not a whole lot fewer bears than we have now, and with the decline of key foods like whitebark pine, the population may be poised for a downturn already, without much in the way of “management” (read: killing).

    Take into account the inherent difficulty of an accurate census of grizzlies, and it begins to look like there’s not going to be a lot of leeway to “manage” bears to make them less numerous or maybe more wary. It won’t take much to get right down to that 500 bear threshold, and then we’re right back to where we have been.

    So, how is delisting going to make any normal citizens’ life better in a PRACTICAL way? I ask this in all sincerity. If it’s just a “power” thing, well, let’s say so.

    Let’s not say we have to do this to save the ESA. If we can’t do an honest job of implementing the ESA, we may as well scrap it anyway.

    Myself, I’d like to just get beyond the “toggle switch” debate over listed or delisted. Let’s have an honest dialogue about the real, on-the-ground challenges of living with grizzlies, and try to meet those challenges TOGETHER. Stop this us versus them business, get away from labels and posturing and try to make this work for everyone.

    [[And that, to me, means that if you live in Baltimore and say you love grizzlies, that you open up your checkbook and not just your heart.]]

    Seriously, if you’re dealing with a troublesome grizzly, ONE bear may be too many for you, let alone 500. So let’s try to work on the REAL problems, instead of worrying whether the guys in the tan shirts (USFWS) are in charge, instead of the guys in the red ones (WYG&F) or gray ones (MTFWP) [sorry Idaho, can’t remember what your uniforms look like].

  2. Renae Avatar

    Why is it ok jeff for predators to run rampant but not the grass eating animals? How many elk are you saving today?

    The post above is not from Jeff. Read it before you reply. webmaster

  3. Jay Avatar

    I’d venture to guess 125,000 elk probably don’t need the protection 500 grizzlies do, Renae.

    How many bison do you allow on your ranch?

  4. elkhunter Avatar

    I am sure the bears will be fine, Jay in our discussion about hunting differences in ID and UT you and Be were very adamant about how elk will learn to adapt to wolves, and the species will be okay. I feel that same line of thinking could be applied here. I doubt this is the first time in the history of the grizzly bear that this whitebark thing has happened, just like you said, elk will adapt, so will the bears. I agree that the bears habitat should be protected, that is probably the most crucial part of the delisting, as long as the habitat is secure, I am sure the grizzlies will be able to survive. I think this is just the loop-hole that people want to use. The same thing with the wolf, population in ID has obviously recovered, but alot of people on this blog still fight delisting, and the cite numerous reasons. Thats what the ESA is all about, protection, population rise, delisting. Everyone should be happy that the bears have reached their population goal and that it is time for delisting. At I always get this feeling that everyone thinks that hunters will go on some shooting spree killing all bears, in the long post above yours the man refers to “management” (read:killing) as if all sportsmen are just waiting for the bell to ring and go run through the forest shooting any bear they see. You and I both know that is not true. I am sure that sometime down the road they will offer some bear tags, but I dont think that would spell the end of the species. I just feel that some people exaggerate the plight of the grizzly bear a little too much. Just on a side note, there is a man in MT that trains bears, he was on Discover Channel a couple nights ago, on a program called “ROUGE BEAR” It was about bear attacks, I actually met the guy in person, and he put a marshmallow in my mouth and the grizzly bear ate it out of my mouth! It was pretty crazy, we have it on video. They are truly impressive, he was about 7-8 feet tall and wieghed about 550 lbs he said, his name was Adam. If you have never seen one up close you cant really appreciate just how strong and big they really are. And I dont think you want to see one that close in the wild!! 🙂

  5. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    Hi elkhunter…you say…….shooting any bear they see. You and I both know that is not true. But that is exact the scenario people fear and sometimes surely not without a reason. Somebody from far abroad, like me, gets some very strange impressions, when searching and browsing what is posted on the web. Not so much within this blog but especially in the comments section of that famous or maybe better infamous Billings Gazette. When reading these comments you actually think you came right in the middle of a forum for some very, very sick people! The picture you get from there is: In the American West it´s shooting of everything that moves, especially wolves, but also everything else, be it Puma, be it Bear, be it Coyote. You name it, somebody is always after it with a gun (or a bow). As an example, one comment about the recent hazing of Bison back to the park even was: “let them be shot, to retrieve some money from them, otherwise they only cost [tax] money!” To an innocent reader even the never ending declining-elk population-story seems to have one basic reason only: “Protect our precious elk from being killed by predators so we [humans] can kill (hunt) them”. I just finished reading the “Yellowstone Story”. In volume 1 the author quotes that even the Yellowstone elk population was driven to near extinction by excessive hunting in the early years (not poaching, hunting). Now, before you start to grill me, I perfectly know, that this picture is not the whole story and I always love to visit the West and I have met some really great and honest people there. Also, I´m not, definetely not, against hunting at all. But nowadays a deep level of distrust seems to prevail between the hunting community everywhere, not just and only in the America West and the – I don´t know what I shall call it community. Maybe “non-hunting community” is appropriate cause I hesitate to use words like tree-huggers, environmentalists, greenies etc. [to quote only the tame ones – you really widen your vocabulary with blogs] 🙂

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Thank you for reminding people that the Internet is not a conversation in a local cafe or bar.

    The governors and other politicians ought to be reminded that their actions get national and international scrutiny nowadays too.

    That is one reason a started a web page and later a blog. I wanted to break out of Idaho, which has long been dominated by an unrepresentative clique since 1992.

  7. Jay Avatar

    Elkhunter, my only point was grizzlies are a legitimate concern as far as endangered species go, elk are not. Elk are numerous, grizzlies are few. As such, management objectives are going to be different. Renae was asking why the difference in mindset between the two, and I was pointing out what seems to be a very obvious answer.

  8. Jay Avatar

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Renae has implied in previous posts that she’s a rancher. So, I was also trying to point out a bit of hypocracy with her comment that the “grasseaters” aren’t treated fairly. If that’s the case, than I’m sure they welcome bison onto their ranch?

  9. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    Peter’s comments should be a real eye opener!
    It’s refreshing to hear from an objective person.
    I especially enjoyed how uncivilized we appear to be in the West by the comments to the articles in the newspapers. even though I live in the West I feel the same way. It really takes me back that people put feelings like that in writing on the internet. That’s why I commented the other day “We still have a lot of educating to do.” In response, to such a positive article. The comments were down right nasty and uncivilized.
    Thanks Peter I have enjoyed reading your input to the blog.
    I hope you continue to give us more insight into the international perspective. TSCHUSS!

  10. das Avatar

    Wyoming federal court is NOT sympathetic to grizzly bears, wildlife in general, or environmental issues. Any smart lawyer would take the case someone else. The Wyoming Gov. is venue shopping

  11. SAP Avatar

    Dear Elkhunter:

    I’ll respond to your statement about my post:

    “the man refers to “management” (read:killing) as if all sportsmen are just waiting for the bell to ring and go run through the forest shooting any bear they see.”

    I hunt, too. Probably 98 percent of the meat I eat is elk and deer that I killed (not harvested, killed . . . an elk is not a corn stalk).

    My point about management is this: euphemisms sometimes get in the way of clear thinking. Bears are not our employees that we would “manage” through encouragement or threats or incentives. Nor are they tomato plants that we can prune or train to grow up a stake or fertilize or till.

    When we say we are going to “manage” them, then, what are we talking about?

    We can trap bears and move them around, but with few vacant-yet-suitable places for them remaining, trapping and translocating is generally an expensive way of killing them, ultimately.

    So when we talk about “managing” bears, really we’re talking about killing them. When people say they want bears delisted so we can manage them, aren’t they really saying they want some of them killed so they’ll be less numerous?

    So, I’m not trying to say something bad about hunters, I just want people to be clear about what they’re asking for.

    And in my post, I was trying to point out that it’s unlikely that delisting grizzlies is going to give some people what they seem to want: to knock bears back to the Yellowstone Park boundary by killing a lot of them.

    I say this for two reasons: first, we can’t point to any INCREASE in abundance of any major grizzly bear food in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. To the contrary, almost all we see is DECLINING food sources: whitebark pine, elk, Yellowstone cutthroats . . . bison maybe have increased some, but they’re probably headed for another major drop like a decade ago.

    I’m not saying that there will be ZERO grizzlies if these trends continue. But, like I said above, the agencies are committed to keeping at least 500 around, so 499 is the number to look out for, not 0.

    And this isn’t a bunch of Chicken Little squawking on my part. Agency scientists have written, in peer reviewed publications, that the loss of whitebark pine could lead to a population decline similar to what happened when the Park closed the dumps back in the late 60s/early 70s.

    I spend a lot of time out in the hills all around GYE, and I’m seeing a lot of dead whitebark pines. The beetles are likely to keep right on expanding until they run out of food or we get some seriously cold weather.

    So, I’m inclined to think that this grizzly population is going to start declining without any “management” here fairly soon. But, because poor whitebark pine production generally results in hungry bears at lower elevations, it may look like there’s more bears than ever. Remember, DISTRIBUTION IS NOT ABUNDANCE.

    Second, despite some armchair biologists’ claims that they know the TRUE number of grizzlies, counting wild grizzlies in rough country is full of uncertainties. We usually see grizzly population estimates expressed as a range (say 495 to 642 bears), since there is no direct count of all the bears.

    When you factor in these uncertainties along with declining food sources, we really can’t expect to kill a whole lot of bears before we get pretty close to the 500 threshold.

  12. elkhunter Avatar

    And those are definetly valid points SAP, as a hunter, and sportsman I sometimes feel that hunters get a bad rap on this blog. I have hunted for years, and have never poached an animal, have never shot an animal out of mistaken identity, and I do think predators are a very important part of the ecosystem, I just feel that every time something happens, whether it be the wolves or bears, hunters are blamed as wanting to go on a shooting spree.

  13. elkhunter Avatar

    Peter, I agree with you on some of the points you made, also from the hunters aspect, at least in UT, hunters and sportsman do alot to preserve and improve habitat, through service hours within the dedicated hunter program. Literally tens of thousands of man hours are donated every year by hunters in UT for the dedicated hunter program. Most of the projects are directed toward improving winter habitat, removing old fences, and repairing guzzlers. I also lived on the east coast in Boston for 2 years, so I do know what the public thinks and how they feel. Also look at what the hunting public deal with also. Gun laws that limit what guns we can use to hunt, diminishing habitat which we all know is the leading cause of population declines, drought and hard winters effecting populations. You see Peter my family and I have been hunting for generations, its what we do every year. Probably similar to the traditions that you have where you live, things that mean alot to you. So when things happen that effect that, like wolf introduction, and the people that want wolves could care less about how you feel or how it would effect things you have been doin for generations. That attitude is what makes me mad. The “take the wolves no matter what” attitude is what makes people mad. Especially when sportsman are the ones that fund alot of the conservation. I know alot of people try to spin it that way, that hunters just want all the animals to themselves so that we can go on a hunting rampage, like you said its not true, but if you read on some activist websites thats what they are promoting. So I guess you could say it goes both ways. But I would never grill you Peter, cause you are one of the few people that actually might think that hunters and sportsman might have some valid points, alot of people on this blog blame cattle and sportsmen/hunters for all the bad, and wolves are the cure for everything.

  14. Vicki Avatar

    Peter, Thanks for the input. All too often we forget that local decisons have far reaching effects. I’m curious, what brings you to visit the GYE? You may have noticed that Elkhunte and I butt heads a lot on this blog. I have to agree with him about hunters contributing a lot of money to conservation. I think that they are more into conserving certain things than others… but who isn’t? I am also not a big fan of delisting the grizzly. I simply don’t think that we have enough available habitat to assure their ability to sustain themselves. Sadly, we can’t blame that on any one thing. I think that it’ll take a lot more than good management plans for either bears or wolves to thrive outside of Yellowstone. I’m glad to see the many ideas that come up on this blog which may lad to serious discussion on solutions to the problems which face our environment right now. Tossing predators out without looking ten, twenty or even thirty years down the road is asking for more trouble. I’m glad that some biologists see grizzlies as being viable enough to be delisted. I just have a hard time believing that people or bears are raedy to handle all that comes with that distinction. Hunters and conservationists are not entirely unalike. They both have an interest in maintaing habitat, they just have different reasons for wanting it done. Neither group will have a problem accepting help from the other if it helps them to acheive their end goal. But they always seem to turn on eachother after that. Until a day comes when all consrvationists see the value of regulated hunting and the funds that it puts forth…. and all hunters see the value that conservationists have when it comes to preserving balance in the ecosystem…. no one will ever agree. Neither side will ever be 100 percent satisfied at any rate. But you seem like a reasonable guy, so keep it up, and thanks.

  15. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    Hi Vicky / elkhunter. Thanks for your kind and elaborate and thoughtful responses! What drives my wife and me almost every other year to the American West / Southwest? We love to hike in a vast, open land, away from the crowd! Long years ago we began in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, then we discovered GYE which – besides a breathtaking landscape – has the bonus of, yes, wolves and bears you can actually see! Even if we don’t see any during a visit, its absolutely enough just to know “they are somewhere out there!”. And yes, no fishing for compliments, you have a fair chance to meet some really great people out there! We like to go to Eastern Europe Countries for hiking also, and for more or less the same reasons. But the real problem is the language barrier. It´s fun but extremely difficult. You are talking about habitat and habitat loss. I think this is a very fundamental problem that really concerns me because you meet this problem everywhere on this globe – today already in the (one might think) empty spaces of Russia! Not much habitat left for the Tiger! Same in China. Add to this the heavy pressure of illegal hunting! Add to this a nearly total neglect of wildlife conservation in these countries. Closer to my home and on a much smaller scale, Austria is struggling to provide enough habitat for the few brown bears left in their alpine regions (maybe you heard about the JJ1 alias Bruno drama last year). But, if in this millennium not even the large USA and Russia and China are no longer able (or willing) to provide sufficient habitat for healthy populations of carnivores, who else should be able? Maybe one often does not realize it, but you have a real treasure out there and you can be proud to have it!


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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