ALTERNATIVE 3 - THE NO GRIZZLY BEAR ALTERNATIVE

 

Alternative 3: This alternative would prevent grizzly bear recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem.

Summary

Alternative 3, the No Grizzly Bear alternative received the third largest amount of comments (behind Alternatives 1 and 4). People do not want bear recovery in the BE for several reasons: concerns for human safety, the possible negative effects to the local economy and land use restrictions being the most common. Many people feel that the grizzly bear is simply a tool used by the federal government to reduce private property rights and restrict personal freedoms. An additional concern is the cost of the program to the taxpayer. People feel there are more important projects that could be funded with their tax dollars: roads and school improvements. Some feel the grizzly bear is not a Threatened species and their tax dollars should not be spent on this program. Many people denounce returning grizzlies to the BE after all the hard work that their ancestors went through to remove the bear. Many are concerned about the negative impacts grizzly bears will have on other wildlife species: deer, elk, and salmon. People are concerned that their hunting opportunities will decrease while the dangers of hiking and camping in the back country will increase.

!?We are opposed to the introduction of grizzly bears into the State of Idaho and are very disappointed in the attitude of our Federal Government's apparent willingness to ignore the opinions of the elected officials of Idaho and our rights as a state. Our views are those of our delegation in Congress, our director of the State Fish and Game Department, and the citizens of Lemhi County.

!?I feel that the grizzly bear recovery will have a drastic effect on the cattle industry, and its getting extremely difficult to make a living at anything in these days. This will also have a large impact on the lumber, timber, and paper industries. I feel that the recovery of the grizzly is not as vital as the sustaining of human lives.@

In a form letter, 21 people from Idaho comment:

!?We were all doing just fine before the Fish and Wildlife Service showed up with bears and wolves in tow. I don't need you, my friends don't need you, my family doesn't need you, my community doesn't need you , the Selway Bitterroot system doesn't need you , and I would respectfully request you and your ideas and your bears to stay out and leave us alone.@

People express opposition to Alternative 3 for several reasons. Some feel it was illegal under the ESA to prevent natural recovery that could occur. Others feel the Fish and Wildlife Service should have an active plan to restore 'an integral part of the ecosystem'. Many oppose this alternative simply because they want the Fish and Wildlife Service to take a more active role in bear recovery.

!?...under Alternative 3, the USFWS would not fulfill its legal mandate to protect the species and its habitat...@

Few comments actually suggest modifications to Alternative 3; most feel this alternative was incorrectly identified or evaluated.

COMMENTS FAVORING ALTERNATIVE THREE

Big Game and Livestock

Many people feel if the grizzly bear is reintroduced into the BE the deer and elk herds will be reduced from predation. They are concerned their opportunities to hunt will decline as recovery progresses and it will no longer be safe to be in the back country. People feel their use of the public lands will be reduced and their sense of security threatened.

!?Our game animals and livestock do not need any additional hazards.@

!?Since the Idaho Fish and Game Department did a survey in the Locksa and Selway area by catching and collaring 24 calf elk in 1996 'black bears' got 12 calves and cougar 6 calves - 4 died whatever and 2 lived. What will the grizzly eat?@

!?I ride horseback in the National Forest and wilderness and so I do not feel that the problem of stock encounters has been sufficiently addressed.@

!?As a rancher and cattle owner the reintroduction of grizzly bears would be a grave mistake.@

 

Human Safety

Many people support alternative 3 because without the bears there will be no added risk to their personal safety. People feel that once grizzly bears are in the BE, it will no longer be safe to hike or camp in the area. Their children will no longer be able to play in the back yard. A common fear is that there will be a grizzly bear behind every bush, stalking any person who might happen by. Many people feel the estimate of injury and death stated in the DIES is too high. People feel that the Fish and Wildlife Service should be held responsible for any personal injury that might be caused by grizzly bears.

!?Past history tells us that many people have died from grizzly attacks. I have been a citizen in Idaho County next to the wilderness area for 77 years, have hunted, camped, taken my children camping on many occasions, but will never again do so if grizzlies are introduced to the area.@

!?Grizzly bears are dangerous animals, I do not want them in my backyard...the bottom line is that these animals kill people. There is no way around that fact.@

!?If there is a chance of one death from a grizzly bear it's not worth it to me. Human life means more to me than having grizzly bears.@

!?I feel my family would be in constant danger if the grizzly makes a comeback... I would be unable to take a walk without carrying a gun.@

 

Effects on the Local Economy

Many commenters feel the restrictions associated with grizzly bear reintroduction will negatively effect the local economy. People fear they will be locked out of the woods and will no longer be able to make a living. They express concern the tourism industry will also be negatively impacted, and people will no longer want to visit and recreate in the area due to the safety risk presented by grizzly bears.

!?Road and trail closures (restrictions on) hunting...mineral extraction, timber, grazing...visitors... That's a real cost, not a benefit, and it's the citizens of Custer County who will pay it.@

!?The Vermont Forest Products Association Supports alternative 3, No Bear alternative to the BE...The economic vitality of an area should not be subjected to the whims of preservationist organizations and their agendas.@

!?As an elected official representing some 28,000 Idahoans, I have grave concerns about any plan that proposes to bring bears into the Selway/Bitterroot area because I believe they would limit recreational opportunities and pose a significant threat both to human life and to the health of the natural resource industries that are the heart of my district.@

!?As a Business man I do not need the added expense of following the required rules pertaining to camps (bear proof boxes etc.)... The EIS says that many jobs will be lost. Throughout the U.S. it won't be a drop in the bucket, but in Idaho, with all the renewable resource jobs that have already gone by the wayside a few more will really hurt.@

 

Cost of Program to Taxpayers

People feel their tax dollars should not be spent on grizzly bear reintroduction or on an 'experiment'. Some people claim the money spent on grizzly bears is a waste, and that it should be spent on issues that would benefit the citizens. Many people disapprove of the high cost of the whole reintroduction effort.

 

Purpose and Need

Several respondents supporting Alternative 3 ask why the grizzly bears are needed in the Bitterroot Ecosystem. They feel the bear is not threatened, there is no shortage of bears in Alaska and Canada, and there is no reason to expand their habitat.

!?There is no proof that putting grizzly bears in the area will either help or hinder their existence@

 

Question the Data used

Several people feel the DIES used faulty data. They question the economic figures used and state the polls conducted were biased by the poll takers. One respondent believes this is ?just another governmental smelly garbage can.@

Strategies to Control Nuisance Grizzlies and Illegal Killing

Several people claim they will personally control bear problems on their property. They say they would not call the FWS and wait for someone else to come out and deal with the problem. Several people state they will have no problem killing a grizzly bear for what ever reason.

!?If one of these animals invade my camp and for some reason had to be killed I would probably be out of business by the court cost to protect myself from the litigation that would be sure to follow.@

 

Bear Sources

One respondent supports alternative 3 because it would mean no ?park bears@ would be relocated into the Bitterroot Ecosystem.

 

Endangered Species Act

Comments related to the ESA are all directed toward the notion the grizzly bear does not need to be listed and that there are plenty of bears in other areas.

 

Laws, Restrictions, Rights, & Authority

Some respondents feel the bear receives more rights from the federal government than the people do. Commenters question the federal government's ability to supercede the State of Idaho's wish to not have grizzly bears reintroduced into the BE. Many view the bear as another tool the federal government will use to remove private rights from the citizens of Idaho. A major issue is the need to maintain the decision process within the immediate area, and that local concerns are more important than those from other areas of the country.

!?...control now being exercised in the name of NEPA and ESA by the federal government is getting oppressive.@

!?I don't think decisions should be based on what people think who do not live in close proximity to or recreate in the area.@

!?The introduction of grizzlies in Idaho against the will of the people and the Idaho State government is overstepping the power of the Federal Government@

!?I do not believe we have a majority of public support in Ravalli county for reintroduction. The effort does not have the support of the Ravalli County Commissioners, Chamber of Commerce, and several other groups that are active in public policy matters in the Bitterroot valley. If the local public doesn't support reintroduction, the project has a high probability of failure.@

!?Private property rights will be at risk for 18 irrigation dam associations with reservoirs in the grizzly bear reintroduction areas. Access to these sites will be jeopardized by this program.@

 

A Missing Component of the Ecosystem

Several people contend that if grizzly bears were meant to be in the Bitterroot Ecosystem they would already be there. Why change the wildlife make up of the area? Several people state there are already grizzly bears in the BE and the FWS should take care of those bears first.

 

Effects to Grizzly Bears

Several people question the habitat's ability to support a grizzly bear population in the BE. People are concerned about what the bears would eat since there are few white bark pine trees and no salmon. Some feel the reason grizzly bears are not there now is because the habitat cannot support grizzly bears.

!? If whitebark pine is on the decline because of blister rust, and there are not as many fish as there once were, and huckleberries are an unreliable source of food for grizzlies, depending on the year, what is to keep the bears in their 'Recovery Zones' instead of in people's apple orchards?

 

CRITICISMS OF ALTERNATIVE THREE

People opposing alternative 3 feel not enough protection will be provided for the grizzly bear, and the bear will go extinct without Endangered Species Act protection. They assert the public will be able to kill bears without concern of the ESA. Some object to tax dollars being spent, even with this alternative. Several people comment the grizzly bear is a missing component of the ecosystem, and restoring the bear will improve the overall health of the ecosystem. One person is concerned alternative 3 would have a ?negative social impact on the Native American tribes in the area@.

!?(Alternative 3 ) sounds too simple. Maybe that is why it is suppose to 'cost millions of dollars'. It appears that this money would be spent to tell us why they are not going to spend 'less' to do nothing.@

 

Endangered Species Act

The majority of those who oppose alternative 3 feel it directly violates the Endangered Species Act. They claim it is illegal to prevent a listed species from recovery, and alternative 3 should be rejected. People comment the USFWS is mandated to have listed species recovery.

!?This alternative does not meet the legal mandates of the ESA and therefore should not have been included in the DEIS.@

!?Alternative 3 is illegal under the provisions of the ESA. The USFW&S cannot prevent natural recovery that could occur.@

SUGGESTED MODIFICATIONS TO ALTERNATIVE THREE

Only three comments received suggest changes to alternative 3:

!?As we read the DEIS, the no action alternative has not been correctly identified or evaluated.@

!?Migration corridors should also be included in all of the reintroduction alternatives.@

!?For this alternative explain how it was determined that the cost would be millions of dollars. And, provide the actual determined cost.@