Does our government have a conscience?Outcomes of delisting the Yellowstone grizzly
by Dr. Nathan Varley
May 10, 2016The Endangered Species Act is our strongest environmental law.
That’s a sad statement about our country and its environment—that it takes a species endangered with extinction before the brakes are applied to human intrusion and habitat loss, legally. This may be considered ‘not within our purview’ by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the agency charged with protecting these species. It may be more of legislative issue than an executive issue; however, executing the proposed delisting of the grizzly bear in the greater Yellowstone area (GYA) will have these intrusive, deleterious effects on the grizzly and its ecological communities over the entire GYA. These outcomes have not been considered in the current USFWS proposal, a glaring omission, in my view.
First, the ESA has not been able to have a strong record of delistings because of the incredible pressure we put on imperiled species, and the will of opponents to undermine efforts. Those opponents will oppose the ESA regardless of its successes and failures; similarly, supporters of the ESA will support it regardless of the number of species that can or have been delisted.
I don’t know who we are trying to convince with this argument…the ‘ESA needs successes or it is a failure’ is conceptually, a failure. A good measure of success for the law is how many species it prevents from going extinct, given the incredible and ever-increasing rate of habitat loss, climate change, and ecological degradation we impose on these species and their respective habitats.
Again, the ESA is our strongest environmental law—that's its greatest success. So, with the delisting the Yellowstone grizzly, I foresee great environmental degradation. The ESA is the only thing that stands in the way of a lot of bad development on public and private land. Without ESA protections we would see the gradual erosion of habitat viability and connectivity, and the kind of human developments and activity that results in dead bears, until the GYA no longer supports grizzly bears and its other far-roaming, iconic species.
Can the USFWS really endorse such an outcome? Can they really sit back and convince themselves that would somehow not happen? Will they preside over such ecological degradation without acknowledging that they can prevent it right now by withdrawing this flawed proposal? Is their head placed so firmly in the administrative sand to suppose critical habitat won’t be logged, mined and subdivided until the landscape no longer supports a viable bear population? Does the government have a conscience, or must the people always intervene to prevent these lapses in judgment?
I will commend the work of the USFWS to recover the bear to this point. It’s been a lot of hard work and restraint to hold back the exploitive forces that still threaten our grizzly population. But I will not get behind calling it complete, when doing so would slowly reverse all that has been accomplished. Let’s call it bureaucratic madness—the unraveling of a successful government program because of the perceived administrative and political need to regard it as finished—when in fact the same threats still exist!
I urge the USFWS to go back and carefully and thoughtfully assess the predicted outcomes of their proposed action. Only then would they realize their current proposal would be the single most ecologically devastating event in the history of the GYA.
Do you wish to comment on the USFWS proposal to delist the Yellowstone Grizzly?
Here is a link to a few more reasons to oppose it, not mentioned above.