Earthjustice Calls for Independent Review of Federal Grizzly Bear Science

Feds refuse to release population data


Doug Honnold, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699

In an effort to ensure an independent scientific review, a conservation law firm has asked the federal government to provide the scientific data on which it relies to justify delisting the Yellowstone grizzly bear population and potential grizzly bear hunting. Earthjustice asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to release scientific data about the Yellowstone grizzly bears, which the federal government has previously refused to release.

“Science depends on other scientists reviewing data and attempting to repeat the work of published authors. The federal government has refused to release key grizzly bear data even after the publication of scientific papers,”said Earthjustice attorney Doug Honnold. “Their game plan is to delist the grizzly bear before independent scientists can review the basic data. Bears would be dodging bullets before independent scientists could assess whether the federal government has missed the boat.”

The federal government relies heavily on estimates of the size of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population to justify removing the population from the list of endangered species and turning over management of the population to the states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. All current population estimates are developed by extrapolating observations of female grizzly bears with cubs to estimate the total population size. Scientists acknowledge that counting bears in the wild is an inexact science, heavily dependent on observer effort, weather conditions, and changing grizzly bear behavior. Consequently, there is substantial uncertainty about the reliability of Yellowstone grizzly bear population estimates.

Government officials have argued that release of the grizzly bear scientific information could lead to increased killing of grizzly bears by poachers. But independent scientists have offered to sign confidentiality agreements that would ensure that information about grizzly bear locations is used solely for scientific study.

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