3% Is Not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzlies,
Dr. Mattson summarizes the ways in which science has been politicized to lend the appearance of scientific objectivity to defining grizzly bear population targets that are at the heart of the debate over whether grizzlies are recovered and should be delisted. Working for the Park Service when these targets were established, Dr. Mattson concludes that “the numbers cooked up by the involved bureaucrats were little more than expedient. They guessed that the Yellowstone ecosystem could only support about 500 bears based largely on an assessment of political repercussions for themselves—either direct from some political Flying Monkey or filtered through the chain-of-command in the Fish and Wildlife Service and Park Service.”
Even after 40 years of ESA protections, grizzlies still number only 3% of pre-European levels. Dr. Mattson offers an alternative approach to recovery based on compassion and the notion of “restoration,” returning the grizzly to something of its former condition or rightful place. He concludes: “3% is not enough. Satisfaction with such a pittance can only be spawned by an impoverished spirit, a lack of remorse for past atrocities, and a pathetic vision of possibilities.” He argues that we can have many more grizzly bears, restored to many more places by changing our narratives about grizzly bears.
What's In A Grizzly Name?
This piece examines changes in the classification and naming of grizzly bears that today are distinguished as Clades rather than subspecies. Around 70,000 years ago, bears belonging to Clades 2, 4, and sub-Clade 3c began moving into North America via Beringia. Of these, only bears of Clade 4 managed to successfully complete the journey to the middle part of the continent. They were then isolated for thousands of years when the door of glacial ice figuratively slammed shut roughly 30 millennia ago. At least two additional waves of migrants arrived afterwards in eastern Beringia between 21-10,000 years ago, all descendants of sub-Clades 3b and 3a. These newer colonists dispersed south from Beringia after ice retreated around 15-8,000 years ago, where they encountered northward dispersing Clade 4 bears in what is now central Alberta and British Columbia.
Of all the Clades, Clade 4 has suffered the most loss, over 95%, at the hands of European settlers. Worse, in no single remaining fragment do Clade 4 grizzlies amount to more than 1000 animals, and more often a few hundred or few dozen. Dr. Mattson recommends that the Fish & Wildlife Service reverse its headlong rush that removed ESA protections of these Clade 4 bears, and, instead, manage for meaningful recovery of this several-threatened group of Rocky Mountains bears that comprise all we have left of this lineage in the world.
You Call This Recovery?
In this piece, Louisa Willcox puts the government's current claims of grizzly recovery in the larger context of how much habitat and how many grizzly bears have been lost -- about 97% of the grizzlies that lived here before European colonization. Willcox challenges the current recovery target of 500 animals and makes that case that numbers for recovery should be far larger. She concludes that alternative approaches to recovery are needed, including efforts to improve practice of coexistences, which can expand the landscape where bears can be.