“While grizzlies may inspire some sense of human vulnerability, history has shown that it is the bears who have often been the more vulnerable ones,” begins a federal appeals court opinion that restored the grizzlies’ endangered species protections.
A significant step was the court’s citing of the effects of climate change on the Yellowstone grizzly’s food source of white-bark pines. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Fish and Wildlife Service was wrong to remove the bears from the endangered species list in 2007.
The three-judge panel said climate changes has sped up beetle infestations that kill the bears’ significant food source, the white-bark pines forcing the bears to forage for other foods in new areas.
The Fish and Wildlife Service failed to adequately consider the impacts of global warming and the beetles on the pines.
“It could not reasonably be denied that white-bark pine loss presented at least a potential threat to the Yellowstone grizzly population,” wrote Judge Richard C. Tallman.
The only other species to receive protection due to harm by global warming is the polar bear.
There are currently estimated to be 600 grizzlies in Yellowstone, roughly triple what it was 35 years ago.
Case: Greater Yellowstone Coalition Inc. v. Servheen, No. 09-36100