By James B. Smith, National Review EditorPublished December 15, 2017 7:03pmUpdated December 16, 2017 8:19pmMountaineers are not alone in being concerned about the impact of the Trump administration’s plan to roll back protections for grizzly bears in the West.
According to the National Park Service, the Trump Administration plans to cut the agency’s grizzly-management budget by over $5 billion, while reducing the amount of land that can be leased for the grizzly population.
The cuts will affect nearly one-third of the National Forest System, including nearly 890,000 acres in Montana and Idaho.
While some of the cuts may not be immediately apparent, they have already begun to affect the public’s perceptions of grizzly bear management.
“This is a significant reduction of our ability to manage the grizzlies, and we are concerned that this is a very real, very real blow to the grizzlys and to the public,” said Tom Folsom, the National Director of the Service’s National Grizzly Bear Management Program.
“If you look at the budget, we are going to have to close about $5 million, so we are not even in the ballpark of where we thought we would be.”
The proposed cuts would reduce the number of bears in federal custody from 4,816 to 3,826, according to a new assessment from the Service.
The total number of grizzlies in federal care has fallen to 6,092 from 10,600, but grizzly populations are still in danger.
“The number of animals in federal captivity has decreased from 5,721 animals in 2016 to 4,919 in 2017,” said the Service in a statement.
“We are also working to increase the size of our population of grizzles, which is a vital indicator of how many bears are in the wild and in danger of being lost.”
The Service is also working with the National Parks Conservation Association to protect the Yellowstone grizzly, which has a population of over 5,000.
“In order to protect our grizzly and other species, the Administration will not be able to operate grizzly management operations as they did under the Clinton Administration,” said Chris Lattanzi, the Executive Director of National Parks.
“In fact, the number that we have now under the Trump Administrations is a fraction of what we had under the Carter Administration.”
The service’s estimates indicate that the proposed reductions will cost the federal government $2.6 billion annually.
“These reductions are devastating for grizzlies,” said Mark A. McBride, the Director of Endangered Species and Environmental Law at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“It will put millions of dollars of federal money at risk and it will mean that the grizzling population in Yellowstone will be much smaller than we have seen under the administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.”
For now, the agency says that it is working with local governments to find a way to keep the population of the grizzled animals intact.
“With the administration’s action, we have no choice but to take action,” said Scott Biederman, the Service Commissioner of Interior.
“Grizzlies are the best example of how an administration can put people at risk.
This is a huge setback to protecting the grizzliest bear.”
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