The federal government is proposing to remove the bear from the threatened and endangered species list even though threats to the species have increased in the 25 years since it was listed.
When Lewis and Clark explored the west 200 years ago, there were 100,000 grizzly bears roaming between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean. Now there are fewer than 1,000 bears in the lower 48 states, a few of which are known to visit and live in the Mount Leidy Highlands. New residents of the area include a wolf pack from the Gros Ventre pack of Yellowstone.
Sierra Club organizers have led tours into the area for the media and the public, and also helped generate 15,000 public comments on the Bridger-Teton National Forest oil and gas management plan. The proposed decision was not to allow drilling in the forest, but a final decision has yet to be issued.
Unfortunately, there's increased motorized pressure on the Bridger-Teton. In four mountain ranges that support rare lynx, wolverine and nesting bald eagles, forest managers recently approved a permit for helicopter skiing that will double the level of this high-impact sport. The agency also gave a wide berth to snowmobile use in the Gros Ventre range, Granite Creek and on the Continental Divide Trail, areas where motorization is already disrupting non-motorized recreationists and threatening populations of grizzly, moose and lynx. The agency allowed this without first studying the potential harm to wildlife, or consulting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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Photo courtesy USFWS.