New grizzly bear plans released for Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains

Comments will be taken until June 22-

Grizzly protection proposed. Plan would limit public’s access. Becky Kramer. Spokesman-Review

It is irritating that the headline for the new plan to save the grizzlies in these two disjunctive grizzly populations of northern Idaho and NW Montana should be negative in tone. After a  brief  look at the plan, to me it appears it will open up about as many miles of roads and routes as it will close. Why stress the minor difference? The rejected alternative, alternative D, which would do more for the bears, would close many hundreds of miles of roads and routes.

The estimated bear population for the two areas is 86 in total. They are separate areas. The bears never, or rarely, move from one to the other. Nor do they connect with the larger grizzly area called the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (Glacier National Park, Bob Marshall Wilderness, etc.).

Here is a link to the plan itself.






  1. Craig Avatar

    What is your opinion on why they don’t move from these areas? Is it roads, housing development or somthing else?

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    There are highways to cross and poor habitat outside these two recovery areas.

    One Selkirk grizzly did, however, manage to get out and into north central Idaho — Kelly Creek — where it was shot over bait by a bait hunter (mistaken identity).

    Folks felt pretty bad about that one.

    Story from Oct. 2007: Grizzly Bear killed in north central Idaho came from the Selkirk Mountains

  3. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Ralph, wasn’t this part of the argument made for bear restoration in the Bitterrots?

  4. Craig Avatar

    I remember that one! I have seen Grizzly tracks way back up off Pistol Creek in thr FCW, but have never heard nor read anything saying there are Grizzlies there! And yes I can tell Grizzlies from Black Bears.

  5. Ken Cole Avatar

    I’ve heard stories of griz in the upper Middle Fork Salmon drainage too. I’ve never seen one though.

  6. jimbob Avatar

    I like how they think they can put a number on what is a healthy population (86!?) If I understand how populations work, especially grizzlies, the only way restoration truly happens is when populations can ebb and flow, causing some bears to wander and seek new territory. We have that problem here in Arizona—our G&F keeps black bear numbers too low with very high hunt opportunities. Populations are declining from what might be considered marginal habitat. If that habitat ever comes back you’ll never see reduced hunting opportunities to allow the populations to recover. Too political!

  7. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Jimbob, I always have wondered how they decide what a healthy population is. I agree that it is all political. Like how they say that the only suitable wolf and grizz habitat in Wyoming is the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and they have a magic number.

  8. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    Odd headline–public access isn’t limited, the public–that would be people, correct?–isn’t locked out at all. People can still walk in. There’s access for anybody willing to walk. If you’re not willing to walk, you still have access to 8.92 billion miles of roads and ATV trails.

  9. J. Taylor Avatar

    There are hundreds of other places that the “public” can go. Fat ATV riding huckleberry pickers and RV campers have thousands of miles of gravel road where they can buzz around and throw their beer cans and motor oil containers all over the place. People that enjoy wilderness won’t be affected at all. They will just walk through it like they have been all along.

    This is one of the last remaining places on the planet that this ecologically and spiritually important species has left to live. It’s completely insane to value “motorized recreation opportunities” over the existence of an entire species. We’ve got plenty of roads. We don’t have much wilderness left anywhere.

    Besides providing habitat for bears (and people who enjoy real wilderness, instead of convenient, prepackaged motorized wilderness excursions), there are also numerous other endangered/threatened species such as lynx, martens, fishers, elk, and wolves that will benefit greatly from the “more restrictive” plan.

    This isn’t about huckleberry pickers and “recreation” opportunities. It’s about lowered profits if they close these roads to logging and mining operations. They are just focusing on “recreation” as a means of redirecting the debate to something that is more likely to glean public support. People don’t feel as sorry for greedy timber corporation executives, as they do when they learn that some poor local farmer is going to lose “their favorite huckleberry picking spot”.

    By the way, as far as judging how large a population needs to be to remain viable, there is a Wikipedia article on it ( … essentially, they just run a bunch of simulations to judge the effects of certain events like natural disasters, disease outbreaks, etc. and see how likely the population is to survive given their breeding habits, food/shelter needs, etc.


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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Ralph Maughan