The discussion, held last Thursday in Missoula, was designed to give the parties a chance to seek a middle ground before incurring the expense of a lawsuit.
Two courts will address the issue: U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch in Boise, Idaho.
At the core of the lawsuits: changes in the Yellowstone Ecosytem ecology will threaten the long-term survival of grizzly bears, warranting their ongoing protection.
During slow times grizzly bears will eat just about anything, but they derive a lot of sustenance from whitebark pine-tree seeds, located in Yellowstone’s high country. But beetles are now getting to those seeds first; the climate in Yellowstone National Park’s high country has warmed enough to where it’s possible for beetles to get a foothold in the local ecosystem. Plus, with fewer seeds hitting the ground, there are fewer seedlings taking root, leading to a death spiral of sorts. With fewer pine-tree seeds, there’s less food for grizzlies. And where there’s less food, there are fewer grizzlies.
Last year a record 48 grizzlies, out of the roughly 600 living in the greater Yellowstone region in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, were killed by humans. If that pace continues this year, a automatic review of the grizzlies’ endangered status will kick in.
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.
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