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April 26, 2012 8:00 am

EDITORIAL: Grizzly, whitebark pine recovery efforts intertwined

Written by Ilene Olson

A decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to delay future attempts to delist the grizzly by two or three years is the right thing to do.
Many scientists believe the grizzly has recovered as a species and no longer needs to be included on the Endangered Species List. But the most recent legal maneuvers by environmental groups have focused on the decline in whitebark pine trees due to disease and pine beetles. The seeds of the whitebark pine traditionally are an important source of food for grizzlies, and some believe the decline of the trees could threaten the grizzly’s continued recovery.

The most recent court decision kept the grizzly on the Endangered Species List until experts with the Fish and Wildlife Service can provide scientific proof that grizzlies can thrive despite the declining number of whitebark pine.
The service has determined the best course of action is to take the time needed to adequately provide the needed proof, both of the grizzly’s recovery — through more accurate population estimates — and to back their belief that grizzlies are making up for the lack of whitebark pine nuts by eating other foods.
Meanwhile, the Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Committee, based in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, is coming to the rescue of the whitebark pine. In 2011, the committee, consisting of federal and state agencies and organizations, developed a strategy to address the issues threatening the whitebark pine.
On Tuesday, that effort won the Forest Lands Leadership Award from the Arbor Day Foundation.
“The strategy continues a robust monitoring program, has planted hundreds of acres in rust-resistant whitebark pine and has collected over 2 million seeds for future planting,” a statement from the foundation said.
Foundation chief executive officer John Rosenow said, “Because of the work of the Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Committee, some of the most precious forestland in the western United States will be preserved for the next generation.”
We believe both efforts — the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to thoroughly document the grizzly’s recovery and the Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Committee’s work to improve the health and number of whitebark pine trees in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem — are important steps in the right direction.

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