Here’s a really interesting series in the Missoulian. It’s it’s a 10- part series comprised of more than 20 stories. Lots of stories and they seem to be visible to those without a Missoulian subscription (thank you, Missoulian! and Lee Enterprises!)
I picked this one as the bikes/grizzlies issue seems to be of interest to TSW readers, but there are many others.. feel free to discuss any. Here’s one about livestock guardian dogs and technology protecting sheep, and the work of ranchers and the group People and Carnivores.
Grizzlies are expanding their range.. how are people getting along with them?
US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Wayne Kasworm had just replaced Servheen as interim leader of the grizzly recovery effort. Treat’s death crystallized one of his top tasks: Getting people to agree on how much safety they all must give up to coexist with bears.
“They’re wild animals, and we are not controlling them,” Kasworm said. “What we attempt to do is provide information so people can make reasoned judgments about what is safe activity or not safe activity. We’re trying to get some conversation going, to get people thinking about what is going on out there in the woods.”
To deal with objective dangers in the outdoors, people already self-limit their recreation in many ways. Boaters avoid rivers during spring runoff, or accept the consequences of lost gear, wrecked boats, and possible death. Golfers voluntarily leave the links when a thunderstorm brings lightning over their metal clubs and spiked shoes. Snowmobilers and backcountry skiers check avalanche forecasts and weigh the risks of the day’s adventure.
“We’re trying to get folks to recognize and take on responsibility for their own safety when they walk into known grizzly bear habitat, when grizzly bear habitat is taking over more and more of Montana,” Kasworm told me. “When a bear results in a human safety issue, or it’s killing livestock repeatedly, we remove the bear. But if you’re tooling around on your mountain bike and you bump into the bear and you’re scared, that’s not necessarily a reason to remove the bear.”
Is it a reason to remove the bikes? And what about everything else humans like to do in bear country? Whose interests rule?
Three years to the day after Treat’s death, Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber declared his disagreement with Servheen’s report. New controversy had arisen over a commercial ultramarathon and a backcountry bike shuttle service in the national forest land around Whitefish, Montana, about twenty miles from Coram.
“I want to start by strongly repudiating the notion that as an agency, we ought not promote, foster or permit activities because engagement in those activities presents risk to the participants,” Weber told the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s summer 2019 gathering in Missoula. “The issues around this are much broader than trail use, and grizzly bears and both people and wildlife may suffer if the discussion isn’t expanded.”
As to Board of Review report, Weber told me he had great personal respect for Servheen but “his (Servheen’s) focus is grizzly bear recovery and solely grizzly bear recovery. Mine is serving the American public and the needs they want in the context of many wildlife species and an overall conservation mission that’s very, very broad.”
Individual sporting events like the Whitefish ultramarathon have such minimal impact on grizzly bears, Weber said, they fall under a categorical exclusion from in-depth environmental review. At the same time, those events endear increasing numbers of people to their public lands as the number of users grows year after year.
“There’s a broad public out there with needs to be served and not just the needs of the few,” Weber said. “We think that greater good for the greatest number will be served. That fosters connectivity with wildlands and a united group of people that can support conservation. And the best conservation for bears is served by figuring out how to have these human activities in ways that are as safe as they can be, understanding you can never make anything perfectly safe.”