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For Immediate Release, June 19, 2007

Contact: Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (505) 534-0360

Conservationists Request Stronger Plan for Grizzly Bear Recovery

SILVER CITY, N.M.— Yesterday the Center for Biological Diversity submitted comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requesting a revision of the 1993 Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan. The comments ask the Service to adopt a more rigorous scientific approach to conserving the species throughout broad areas of its historic range.

The comments respond to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s request for information for its five-year review of the grizzly bear’s status as a threatened species. The Center urged uplisting grizzly bears from “threatened” to “endangered” status and identifying recovery areas in the Southwest, southern Rocky Mountains/Colorado Plateau (ie. parts of Colorado and Utah), Pacific Northwest/California, and the Great Plains. Currently, official grizzly bear recovery areas exist only in Montana, Idaho and Washington.

The Center’s five-year-review comments notify the Fish and Wildlife Service that the current recovery plan is legally inadequate and provide guidance into the necessary revision process.

“With habitat protection and restoration, grizzly bears could eventually roam from Mexico to Canada, and from the Great Plains to the Cascades and Sierra Nevada Mountains,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The current recovery plan does not incorporate the scientific view that populations should be linked through migration corridors to ensure genetic viability.”

Robinson added: “This is a long-term vision for a world in which people and bears live in relative harmony. And it’s a pragmatic vision, achievable by the government and citizens.”

Grizzly bears were exterminated from their former range throughout the western United States by human persecution, including the poisons and traps of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its predecessor agency, the Bureau of Biological Survey.

Grizzly bears’ ecological roles include helping to transfer nutrients from oceans to mountains by eating spawning salmon that swim hundreds of miles upstream as well as maintaining soil composition by digging for native plant foods and rodents such as marmots. Researchers have found, for instance, that meadows in Glacier National Park where grizzlies have dug up glacier lily bulbs store more available nitrogen and are better suited for native plant perpetuation – including that of the glacier lily bulbs.

“Grizzlies are part of the complex balance of nature,” said Robinson. “They are generally shy animals, and where they survive people have learned to keep campsites clean of food scraps and use common sense to ensure safety for both humans and bears. People and grizzlies can learn to live together, and we are optimistic that future generations will appreciate our work now to restore grizzly populations and migration corridors.”

“It will take many decades to recover the grizzly,” Robinson added. “We need to start now.”

The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity is currently in court as part of a coalition of conservation organizations represented by Earthjustice, seeking restoration of Endangered Species Act protection to grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem. The groups have provided evidence that Yellowstone grizzlies are still greatly imperiled.

Read the Center's comments.

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