An Alternative Path to Grizzly Recovery in the Lower 48 States
An Alternative Path: Some Practical Steps
Protect Secure Habitat
Given the isolation and fragmentation of habitat in the past, all remaining secure habitat must be protected. This would go a long way to protecting habitat where bears could expand and connect to other ecosystems. All inventoried roadless areas on BLM and Forest Service lands, and all roadless land in adjacent grizzly ecosystems in Canada should be maintained in a roadless condition. And the agencies should also protect roadless areas less then 5000 acres in size which are adjacent to existing wilderness areas and parks.
Restore Degraded Habitat
In some currently occupied or potential habitat, the landscape has become so lethal or the habitat so fragmented that bears can not successfully move from one core area to another. In such cases, it will be necessary to restore habitat and/or to lower rates of human-caused mortality, by obliteration and closure of roads and high use trails, and eliminating domestic sheep.
Top and bottom photos, courtesy of Doug & Pegy Sobey; middle photo, courtesy Zöoprax Productions
Reduce Human-Caused Mortality
More needs to be done to reduce preventable bear mortality by improving human behavior, such as handling of garbage and other attractants, hunting practices, and management of livestock allotments, especially in lands connecting ecosystems and in areas where bears are recolonizing.
- Develop a system to promote learning by experience, and a team approach to resolving bear-human conflicts. Significant successes with garbage management have been achieved in the past few years through a shared approach involving agencies, citizens, non-governmental organizations and scientists. These successes can be expanded upon, but only if the government avoids "command and control" approaches
- Expand Forest Service food storage/sanitation program. Of particular importance are: a) ecosystems where the populations are so close to extinction, such as the Selkirks, where no mandatory food storage rules presently exist; b) Currently occupied habitat outside the purview of existing food storage policies; and c) potential linkage zones between ecosystems, and areas where bear area expanding.
Promote Stewardship and Protection of Private Lands
- Identify and prioritize current occupied and potential habitat for grizzly recovery on private lands. Such analysis could help prioritize lands for easement acquisition and purchase, on a willing seller/willing buyer basis.
- Monitor bear use of private land. A comprehensive monitoring program, and sanitation and conflict resolution efforts designed to involve interested landowners in assessing what grizzlies are doing seasonally and why, could help anticipate and resolve problems.
- Share information on habitat and bear use. One of the major challenges facing grizzly conservation on private lands in the balkanization of data among resource management agencies, private lands conservation groups, local governments and others. We encourage the sharing of information and ideas relevant to protection of critical land parcels, and to resolving human-bear conflicts.
- Enact county garbage ordinances. We recommend that each county in grizzly bear habitat develop legally enforceable mechanisms to prevent habituation to garbage. Recognizing that there can be a considerable cost to changing garbage management regimes to ones that are bear resistant, we recommend collaborative fundraising and planning efforts with agencies to assist communities in the transition process.
- Correlate private land growth patterns to adjacent public land management. Protection and restoration on public lands may need to increase to compensate for the loss of private land habitat due to development. We recommend the development of a system to evaluate grizzly habitat needs at the home range scale, and provide ways to make up for the loss of private lands due to development, by improving habitat quality on nearby public lands.
Develop New Framework for Transboundary Grizzly Management
- Develop grizzly population and habitat targets and management standards for all border populations, emphasizing protection, maintenance and restoration of lands between grizzly ecosystems.
- Develop and implement citizen involvement and educational initiatives designed to show the transboundary nature of grizzly habitat needs, and the importance of problem-solving in a transboundary context.
- Institute a system to compile ecosystem-wide mortality and human-bear conflict information which can be used to prioritize problem-solving efforts.
- Provide incentives for community leadership development, emphasizing small-scale projects to provide learning opportunities, and work with targeted constituencies, (e.g., such as residents, sportsmen and recreationists) on non-lethal deterrent methods and sanitation measures.
- Create a transboundary bear recovery process among agencies, non-governmental organizations and other interested parties, aimed at protecting habitat, reducing human bear conflicts, sharing information, and recognizing that what works to resolve problems on one side of the border may not work on the other.
- Develop augmentation programs, where needed, to improve the prospects for connecting grizzly populations, while avoiding harm to source populations used for such augmentation programs.
Improve Recovery Program with Broader Public Participation
Photo courtesy of Florian Schulz
- Create a recovery team, which includes representatives of non-governmental organizations.
- Address issues associated with uncertainties in habitat and population numbers, and their short and long-term consequences.
- Open all aspects of the recovery program including underlying assumptions to scrutiny and comment by the public, and develop new and constructive mechanisms to engage the public in resolving conflicts with bears.
- Enlist the involvement of independent scientists, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, to participate in a thorough review of the scientific underpinnings of the grizzly bear recovery plan and related policies.
- Develop long-term sustainable funding sources to ensure implementation of the recovery program.
- Develop specific guidelines and criteria for monitoring and measuring the success and failure of implementation of recovery program, as recommended by the Society for Conservation Biology.
- Provide clear measurable thresholds to trigger changes in course to respond to future conditions.
- Expand efforts to prosecute poaching cases, and to ensure that habitat and sanitation standards are implemented. In some cases, new agreements between state and federal law enforcement agencies will be needed to enforce road closures and other habitat measures.
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