This isn’t the first time this discussion has arisen. The grizzly was delisted in 2007, only to be relisted in 2009 after a collective of conservation groups sued.
But grizzlies could again be delisted in the next year or so. First, though, Servheen’s Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, a partnership of federal and state wildlife agencies, must prove the animal can survive without a major food source, whitebark pine nuts, which is declining due to climate change.
While the agency continues to lay the groundwork for delisting, some hope ranchers and conservationists will find a middle ground that eluded them in the battle over the wolf.
Some, like Neal, aren’t optimistic. He says many ranchers don’t want to share the land with large predators. “Their granddaddies were successful in getting rid of this 100 years ago. They don’t see coexistence as their goal. They see victory as their goal,” he says.
But according to Jim Williams of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, conservationists and ranchers are “working together really well. Ranchers have spent years altering the way they make a living to accommodate grizzly bears,” including installing electric fences and disposing of livestock carcasses promptly so they don’t attract predators, he says. “We need to figure out how to live with grizzlies,” he adds.
It remains to be seen whether such cooperation will last, once the delisting debate heats up in the months to come. When that does happen, the question of what belongs where will once again make us consider just how wild we want the land around us.