Grizzly bears aren’t on the endangered species list, but they should be

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Grizzly bear

On March 3, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that the grizzly bear would no longer be listed on the endangered species list under the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Their official statement reads:

“Therefore, we conclude that the effects of climate change do not constitute a threat to the [Yellowstone grizzly bear population] now, nor are they anticipated to in the future.”

Why should we be paying attention to this? Well, here is some background information. At the time Lewis and Clark were the first exploring America, there were about 50,000 to 100,000 grizzly bears roaming the West, from the Arctic Sea to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. Today, there is an alarmingly low number of them: about 1,500 south of Canada. Most of them are inside or around the Yellowstone National Park, which presents an issue in and of itself. The fact that grizzlies are now not technically considered endangered could potentially open up a trophy hunt in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming if they were to wander outside the national park borders. We need them to be protected in all areas they may be found.

The grizzlies have been facing a larger issue, however. Global warming. The warming of the earth has caused their main food source (whitebark pine trees) to die at an alarming rate. Most recent numbers show that since 2002, 95% of the trees have died off, leaving the grizzlies forced to look outside the Yellowstone National Park for food. This small migration could have devastating effects for the grizzlies, as the hunting rate will go up. Since they are no longer protected, if they are perceived as threatening, they can and will be killed. Legally.

Doug Peacock, an activist and Yellowstone grizzly expert drafted a letter to President Barack Obama to address this delisting issue. Within the letter, he urges President Obama to reconsider his administration’s decision to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list with emphasis on global warming. He voices his concerns that the government is not taking global warming seriously, claiming that published scientific studies about the issue are “unreliable”. Doug has a point. An important question he raises is this: Who benefits from delisting Yellowstone’s grizzly bears? The only known outcome of the delisting is an increased trophy hunt on grizzly bears, which will deplete their population even faster.

Being educated and aware about what global warming is doing to not only our planet, but all those who inhabit it, is extremely important. Take action. Speak about issues such as these to those around you. Alert your local representatives of these effects, and demand change. It’s only the earth we’re talking about here.

Lauren is a part-time editorial and graphic contributor at 301 Digital Media who has a strange obsession with cats and a love for Drake that will never be reciprocated. Follow her on Instagram: @lpetermeyer

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