U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen will eventually rule on the level of protection Grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem receive. The fate of the Endangered Species Act and of the first Grizzly hunt in more than four decades hangs in the balance.
The question is, what is best for the bear and what is best for hunting? If we get a ruling that places Grizzly management squarely in state hands then we at First Lite will celebrate the official restoration of a quintessential game species. We hope that as the hunts open on the first of September, tag holders understand the gravity of their hunts. These individuals will be representing not just themselves but all American hunters. We also hope that the states of Wyoming and Idaho realize that these individuals are operating under the respective states game laws and that IDFG and WGF will, in part, be responsible for hunters’ actions in the field. Although many hunters do pack out bear meat, regulations in both states do not require individuals to do so. Does that rule make sense in 2018? At First Lite headquarters the meat comes out first, the rack second.
If the hunt does not occur it will not be because the biologists on the ground have not done their jobs and we would lament their wasted efforts. We would also bemoan the continuation of this conflict as it would certainly lead to further degradation of civility between the two sides. Most importantly, if we allow the ESA to be a haven for any charismatic animal we aren’t willing to publicly manage we will have degraded one of our most important pieces of conservation legislation. Should the aversion of the non-hunting public to the killing of bears be allowed to jeopardize the critical conservation tool that is the ESA?