Date of Award

Spring 2000

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Life & Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Grant Hokit

Second Advisor

Jay Sumner

Third Advisor

Gerald Shields

Abstract

In 1997, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) proposing possible modes of grizzly bear recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem (BE) of Central Idaho and Western Montana. Four alternatives were outlined in the DEIS. The first alternative suggests grizzly reintroduction into the BE managed by a Citizen Management Committee (CMC). This would require amending the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to allow the population to be labeled as experimental and nonessential. The second alternative proposes that the grizzlies naturally reinhabit the BE, through migrational movements. Experts have agreed that natural reinhabitation of the BE will not occur. The third alternative proposes that grizzlies be prevented from inhabiting the BE, which would allow the bears to be shot on sight, and would require millions of dollars in legislation to remove the bears from federal protection. The fourth alternative proposes that the grizzlies be reintroduced into the BE under full protection of the ESA and be managed by a Scientific Management Committee. This would cause road closures in several areas and possibly reduce timber harvesting and mining. Alternative 1 is proposed for action by the USFWS. Alternatives 2 and 3 do not meet the need and purpose for action called for in the DEIS. Alternative 1 contains many weaknesses. The CMC may not be as capable of managing a grizzly bear population as well as the USFWS or a scientific team. The experimental nonessential designation inhibits any possibility of linkage zones between the BE and nearby grizzly populations. In all likelihood, since a population introduced by Alternative 1 would not have full protection of the ESA, the population would not be sustainable for long periods of time. Alternative 4 addresses each of these weaknesses, Q and has no large weaknesses of its own. Thus, Alternative 4 should be implemented, not Alternative 1.

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