Expert: Help relist grizzlies
By Traci Angel, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: May 22, 2009
A grizzly bear expert and author urged Jackson Hole residents this week to petition the government to add the animals back onto the endangered species list.
Public response is key to relisting grizzlies, Doug Peacock said during a presentation Tuesday night in Jackson.
He said people signing petitions and writing letters to public officials is the best hope for action because the government agencies protecting the grizzly are incapable of doing so.
Peacock said a staggering number of Yellowstone grizzlies died last year, at least 54 that are known. Hunters and others shot 37 of those, he said.
He attributed the increase in deaths to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service taking the grizzly off the endangered list two years ago, plus the loss of whitebark pine, which has seeds that provide an important food source for the bears.
“This is a double whammy,” he said. “Whitebark pine [seeds] and grizzly mortality are directly related.”
Peacock, who is best known for his book “Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness,” was one of the speakers at an event hosted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance at Teton Science Schools’ Jackson Campus. The event primarily focused on the increasing number of dying whitebark pine trees.
Backcountry guide Thomas Turiano and whitebark pine scientist Dr. Jesse Logan also spoke regarding what has happened to whitebark pine populations and how its fate directly affects people and wildlife.
Scientists and rangers began noticing mountain pine beetles attacking the trees a few years ago. In previous seasons, colder temperatures killed off the pests and kept their numbers low. However, recent warmer weather and climate change have allowed the beetles to propagate and broaden their infestation, Logan said.
“This just builds year after year,” he said.
Anyone spending time in the mountains can witness the changing landscape and the dying trees, Turiano said.
“Travel through whitebark pine is a pleasure,” Turiano said during a slide show emphasizing the many ways the trees are used in backcountry exploration. “If the weather threatens, the full canopy provides shelter from wind, rain and snow.”
There’s more at stake than whitebark pine as a trailside companion, however, Turiano and Peacock said.
“The only choice is to go to Obama or someone in the Department of the Interior or wildlife service to have them withdraw their ruling,” Peacock said.