23 Nov 2011:
Court Restores Protections
For Yellowstone Park’s Grizzly Bears
A federal appeals court has ruled that Yellowstone National Park’s population of 600 grizzly bears was improperly removed from the endangered species list, saying the bears face an unprecedented threat from the widespread die-off of a key food source
, the white bark pine. A three judge panel of the U.S. 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals said that the massive loss of white bark pine
was due to climate change, since warmer winters have enabled the larvae of a major pest — the pine beetle — to survive and destroy or damage 40 percent of Yellowstone’s white bark pine trees. The ruling makes the Yellowstone grizzly population only the second wildlife species, after the polar bear, to earn protection under the Endangered Species Act because of climate change. Grizzly bears eat the nuts of the white bark pine, and the appeals court panel agreed with conservationists that the loss of the trees at high elevations could drive the grizzly bears to lower, more populous areas
, increasing bear/human confrontations. The ruling is not expected to significantly change the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s strategy for stabilizing grizzly populations. A lawyer for a conservation group said the decision reflects growing recognition that “global warming is completely transforming natural places across the West.”
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