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Transcript: Habitat Corridors
Jim Peck: Chris Servheen, in talking about these corridors, these linkages, I think some people think these are going to be little tunnels that these bears sort of scoot through or little bridges that they scoot over the interstates. Is that what we're talking about?
Chris Servheen: No, we don't even use the corridor word because we think that's a, that's a misnomer. What we're looking at is, we're trying to maintain natural processes across the landscape and this is not just a grizzly bear issue, this is an issue for the all the native species in the Rocky Mountains. Healthy populations of wildlife need the ability to continue to move from block to block across the the Rocky Mountains from these large blocks of federal habitat from one to the other, this ability to move maintains healthy populations and in the long term this will prevent us from having to list other species to have further animals listed under the endangered species act and the restrictions that come with that. Basically we're trying to maintain natural processes on the landscape it involves federal land, it involves private land and it involves highways and it involves partnerships with private land owners, it involves working with the Departments of Transportation and it involves the managers of the public land to maintain what we call linkage zones across the landscape where the opportunities for movement for wildlife still exist and in the long-term the health of most of our large mammals in the Rocky Mountains will depend on maintaining those opportunities for movement. We're avidly working on that, we think the possibilities are good to do that and I think the future for many of these species is going to be dependent on that.
Jim Peck: But do you agree?
Amaroq Weiss: Yes. I think I love the statement, that grizzly bear habitat is in the human heart -- I hope our heart is really big. Predators like grizzly need even more large areas than wolves do I may have mentioned to you in an earlier conversation that California once had grizzly, we probably still have suitable wolf habitat, we probably don't still have suitable grizzly habitat, and as Chris was saying it isn't just habitat for the grizz; it's for all of the other accompanying species in the ecosystem. When we're protecting large predators and places for large predators we're actually protecting a, a huge realm for many, many things that live in that environment and it is something that needs to be acted on and acted upon very quickly. A major threat is development. City folks do tend to view the west as a pastoral setting that they want to move to and they move into all the places that all the pastoral things live and we do need to be planning ahead, we do need a big vision on that and we need a lot of people at the table for that. One of the efforts that was, was going to achieve that was a proposed reintroduction of grizzly into the Selway Bitterroot area in Idaho and this was a, a program that had everyone at the table -- industry folks, labor folks, folks from the timber industry environmentalists -- and this was a plan that went into many years of planning and effort by a lot of people, exactly the type of project that the Bush Administration claims that it would like to see. And unfortunately the Secretary of Interior, Gail Norton, said no, we're not going to go forward with that plan. Hopefully we can get a switch in that viewpoint from the administration because that's the kind of effort we need to see to save large habitat for species like grizzly.
Jim Peck: Do you think these linkages are critical to their survival?
Jim Caswell: I think they're yeah I think they are critical long-term absolutely. Do I think they need to be mandated more than they currently are? Absolutely not. I mean if you think about the threat to the spine of, of the state divide between Montana and Idaho I mean it's, it's miniscule in reality. It can be worked with and I agree with Chris that IGBC and all the folks involved in those discussions are working on those issues and there's things that can be done to improve opportunity, but in reality that block of federal ground is interconnected today, it'll be interconnected tomorrow, it's not going to change I mean you can't even do anything on the landscape anymore on federal ground that's good, let alone that's bad. And get it done in any timely way. Most of its roadless, most of its got some kind of forest plan restrictions or development restrictions, controlling access, so it's, it's very well protected. Now we can't forget about it I'm not saying that. You know as far as the few highway crossings I think those things can be dealt with we're doing it up north right now on a highway piece of highway that's being rebuilt and we're putting crossings in. Part of the issues is where? How do you do that so it'll be utilized? What's the proper place, if you're going to make a million-dollar investment you've got to put it in the right place. In order to put it in the right place we need to do some research to find out why they cross here, why they cross there, where do they cross, where do we have you know collisions with the animals on the highways that's consistent or is it fluke deal here just here or there, figure those things out before we make those investments. That's part of the research that'll be going on right now very concertedly in my opinion.
Crosby Allen: Respectfully, animals are animals; they're very adaptable. We have grizzly bears coming into one of our towns it's happened, happened on numerous occasions just last week they had to dart a grizzly bear that was running into the town of Jackson right on the city limits. We don't need linkages they're already there the, the idea of core preserve areas and linkages comes out of international treaties bio-diversity treaties where that comes from and I would suggest to this group that it's more of a political agenda than it is one based on science. If we get into the linkage corridor concept all we're doing is fulfilling that agreement and the next thing that we'll have, that we'll see is buffer zones that comes under the biosphere treaty and if, if you study that and you project it you'll see that most of the western states will be completely regulated by those two things. So this is a very dangerous area and we need to separate the garbage, not to use that term with the word bear, from the science. And right now we're hearing garbage, I'm sorry its not based on science.
Aaron Miles: I guess when we're looking at all this, when 150 years go when westward expansion was happening in the Pacific Northwest, we're faced with the same issues today and right now until that changes, we're still driven by the economy of this nation and so you know you look at developers they're bringing in money, they're bringing in more people from the east and so until we identify those as really as a, as a problem then we're never going to solve this I mean because we're, we're pushing on the brink of more development and we're just getting more into the grizzly bear and wolves habitat and it's rightfully theirs it's not even, wasn't even rightfully ours in the first place and we just put a value to all this. It sickens me that we've done that and now you look, you look at what they've lost the both those predators I mean the range all the way down to Mexico and then we're, they're just fighting for a little couple parcels of this, of this ecosystem. When are we going to identify that we're the problem and not those those other predators?
Tom Parker: Yeah I'm someone who lives and works in one of the first areas to have these grizzly bear linkage zones established and experimented with. I guess my only regret is that it wasn't more comprehensive and I they did the best job they could to, to get you know as much important and critical habitat identified and protected as possible, but what people have to realize that in reality these things will serve to minimize human conflict with, with these animals and the the fact of the matter is that although established for specifically grizzly bears where we are, all species benefited, big games, forest carnivores, small animals there was tremendous benefit to all of these animals from, from the establishment of these linkage zones.
Levi Holt: I'd like to kind of bring it back to center if you will, I think that initially when we consider corridors and the movement of all species we really need to consider the fact as mentioned earlier these land bases were in tact and were without interruption we came in, we fenced the land, we drove the animals away. It seems to me in the three states in the northwest Idaho, Montana and Wyoming a cattle, a cow, has more protection on the highway then any wildlife. If I hit a, a livestock out on the highway I'm perhaps liable, I'm here in court to face a fine and other reimbursement to the rancher who has an opportunity to free graze and, and allow species of livestock to roam freely um, but yet when we consider the grizzly or, or any other predator movement, we're looking to restrict it and we're looking to condense it. This is a problem that not only here in the U.S., but in Canada, in my travels there and working with the uh, Yellowstone to Yukon conservation initiative one of our goals is to connect the Northern Rockies to the Southern Rocky corridors and I have to come back to corridors because I believe we begin to take from the meaning and the emphasis and we get so involved in, in definitions that we forget really what we are here for and I think we're, we're stewards today and we're forgetting about that. It's not all about just putting down an animal. Somehow we need to find a way and I think that the government if, if that is the case needs to be involved. Idaho being largely federally owned has an obligation to work with the federal government and vice versa. The equation here that I think is being left out is that tribes when we signed our treaty in 1855. When we spoke at that our desire was to retain and preserve wildlife and habitat. Yes we're talking about wildlife now, but not so much the habitat and I think with the current administration moving in the directions as they are to, to gut the clean air act, clean water act, the roadless initiatives, we're seeing an influx and an attack on something that has been preserved, something has been America and we're losing that today.
Chuck Schwartz: One of the things I think it's important to recognize when you're talking about linkages there's, there's an issue of scale here and what we've I've heard is mixed scales. The Yellowstone for example is your thinking in global scale, the Northwest for example. A linkage zone connecting the greater Yellowstone ecosystem for example to the Bitterroot cannot be this little narrow interstate highway, particularly if you're talking about a species like grizzly bears. First of all, they won't know where it is and they don't disperse that way. Wolves have a tendency to disperse great distances, but grizzly bears particularly females generally occupy an area within or just adjacent to their mother's home range so their expansion is very slow, it's like an ameba sort of spreading on the landscape. So if we're talking about connections between Yellowstone and the Bitterroot for example we're talking about providing seasonal or even annual habitat that those animals can occupy from one ecosystem to another. If we're talking about movements of wildlife across Togidy Pass Highway for example, then we're probably talking about narrow corridors just a small piece of landscape where the animals can funnel down safely, go under, over or across the highway and, and maintain connectivity. So when you think of linkages or zones connecting pieces of real estate you've got to, you've got to first all put it in perspective relative to what scale that we're talking about. And then when you've picked the scale then you have to tailor it relative to the species because different species have different requirements. And you know Chris is correct the grizzly bear oftentimes is considered an umbrella species if you do it for the grizzly bear there's a lot of other wildlife that falls under that umbrella. A lot of other species will benefit, but there are other species of wildlife that don't fall under the umbrella for the grizzly bear and we don't want to myopically focus on linkage zones or corridors just for grizzlies. We want to focus on linking these large blocks of secure habitat for all of the wildlife species that will be freely moving between them. That equates the healthy wildlife populations and I think that's the goal that we're really striving for here is to maintain healthy populations of wildlife in the western U.S. in the presence of people.
Jim Peck: Let's talk a little bit about the Bitterroot because that's been an area that's come up a couple of times. Chris, is it important that we have bears back in there?
Chris Servheen: Well, the Bitterroot is the largest block of wilderness habitat in the Rocky Mountains and it's some 5,000 square miles of wilderness and it used to have grizzly bears in there. The only reason the bears aren't there is we killed them. It could be a stepping stone between Yellowstone and areas to the north and certainly if grizzly bears got into the Bitterroot the potential for connecting Yellowstone to areas to the north is much higher. I don't think it's necessary to have grizzly bears in Yellowstone. We don't need grizzly bears in the Bitterroot for sure, but the idea that we've got this big block of, of wild habitat that has everything that grizzly bears need, except the bears in it has great opportunity to provide a little more space for bears in the lower 48 states. We've eliminated the grizzly bear from 98% of its habitat in the lower 48 states today. And the few areas where its still possible to maintain bears if we can get populations in there and maintain those populations as healthy then the long-term future for grizzly bears in the lower 48 states will be much better.
Dave Gaillard: And if I could just expand that beyond grizzly bears, the Bitterroot is such a key area. It's great habitat for all sorts of wildlife. A recent study published in the leading scientific journal found that 10 predator carnivore species were looked at from Yellowstone all the way north to Jasper up in B.C. and Alberta and found that Idaho contains the largest block as Chris mentioned, of undeveloped great habitat for these species. And not only that it, that its great habitat, but it's also a linchpin for connections for all those animals south and north. And that's where its particularly frustrating for the current administration federally, the Idaho governor to come out against restoring grizzly bears and, and often the, the, the places where its best to be a predator in terms of the habitat turns out to be the most politically hostile climate. And what I think you know the reason I'm here is for that vast constituency for these wildlife that go beyond the people that want to kill them, that go beyond the people that just deal with the problems that they pose. I don't want to belittle those problems, but in the grand scheme of things there's a tremendous upwelling up support for these animals lives, living, breathing along the landscape and people want to hold on to our heritage. And its really frustrating because the predator policy sometimes does not reflect the will of the majority of these, of Americans and Idahoans who, who support predators in the state and it doesn't, it isn't grounded in good science it's instead often co-opted by politics, by special interest groups that unfortunately are, are concerned more about you know just maximizing elk numbers for hunters or simply trying to make Idaho and the Northern Rockies like every other place in the lower 48.
Paul Hoffman: I think one of the things we've learned in managing endangered species is, is that if you don't have the support of the local population that lives with them they're very difficult to recover. We have a syndrome called shoot, shovel and shut-up that occurs oftentimes when the local population doesn't support having these species co-mingle with them. And so the secretary in her determination not to reintroduce grizzly bears into the Bitterroot area determined as was articulated by the Governor of Idaho that there was not popular support for having these species there and that it would be difficult to conserve them there without that popular support. And when we get to talking about corridors the only reason we can talk now about establishing corridors between the Northern Montana area and the Yellowstone area is because through the good work of several federal agencies, state governments, private landowners, hunters, outfitters and guides we now have a strongly recovering grizzly bear population in the Yellowstone area. So now we're talking about the finer points of how do we achieve the next level of conservation and that next level of conservation is going to be achieved by working cooperatively with the private landowners who own the land that make up these corridors and so we're at, we're at the next level of conservation what Secretary Norton calls a new environmentalism where we need to work cooperatively in consultation and with communication in order to achieve conservation.
Jim Peck: So from the people that you've heard from here, are there people here that you're going to want to be talking to about that?
Paul Hoffman: Absolutely I you know that.
Jim Peck: You're talking about some of these private lands. Jon, I know you were talking about private land earlier. What do you think about what he's saying?
Jon Robinett: To put a block of land together to increase the island area. What I see is that if you can not regulate it, but you can get tolerance and cooperation I think it'll go a lot forward than if you come in and mandate it or try to regulate it into existence.
Paul Hoffman: See we're past the need to go out with a big stick and beat people over the head. We're at the stage where we can hold a carrot out and we can work cooperatively. We can get them to value these predators and, and value the relationship between the predators and the prey and, and have them cooperatively set aside lands for conservation purposes that'll work much more effectively in the long run than a regulatory mechanism and an overlay and an . . . from on high out of Washington.
Amaroq Weiss: Two points, the Selway Bitterroot grizzly reintroduction was the best example in a long time of a cooperative program where locals did buy in and as it turned out the governor of Idaho was opposed to it and the Secretary of the Interior was opposed to it and the idea died. This was a perfect example of exactly what your talking about and yet the Bush administration rejected it. The other point I'd like to make is that in light of enforcing endangered species act types of laws and I completely agree with you that cooperation is where it's at, but when it comes to enforcement, we don't not enforce traffic laws because there are some people that don't want to stop at a stop sign or don't want to use their seatbelt. We don't not enforce criminal laws because somebody feels like holding up a bank. We don't not enforce court orders in divorce cases because someone isn't happy with it. We enforce laws in this country that were established by our legislature according to the will of our people and the fact is, the endangered species act was a major act in this country passed in 1973 by the will of the American people who wanted to see endangered and threatened species recovered. So we'd like to see the law enforced. In combination with cooperative efforts, but by gosh those laws should be enforced too.
Dean Miller: John will be surprised I'm kind of in agreement on this one. When you talk about the cost, you know who pays the price the thing that we found and we looked at the Santa Ana cougars there was a population of cougars around Santa Ana California, huge city 300,000 people and lots of development coming up the foothills and they, they radio collared tons and tons of these cats and followed 'em the number one cause of death was cars they were killing a 1/3 of those cats every year on the road because California's and they're just like anybody else they wanted a straighter, faster road to where they were getting too. Probably the people that drove that road considered themselves good stewards of the land and conservationists and those dang ranchers and developers that are the problem. But I really like having this new State Hwy. 265 to get me to where I want to go. And so I think for the people who are watching this show, I mean I keep brining it back to you, but it's really your problem to solve. If you want a faster way to get somewhere there's a cost. If you're a vegetarian and you're eating stuff that's produced with hydrocarbons you're as big, you're killing things. You may not think you are, but you are. And I think that's one of the problems we have is its easy to go at the big industries and the big land users, but the five zillion ton gorilla at the table that nobody will talk about is the American public which won't do anything difficult to save these critters and that's when you're talking about these corridors, you can't have those roads and have that undisturbed land because in the Santa Ana's that population is going to be extinct and Cal Fish and Game has written 'em off because there's no way, they don't have the linkage between all those places to where those cats can disperse and interbreed and your ending up with all these problems of genetic diversity that Chris was talking about. It's just you know people watching the show you're more a part of the solution than you think and you've got to pressure your agencies to do the difficult thing because they think you don't have the guts to do what's hard. They think that you want it easy.
Carl Scheeler: You know most of the problems that we're talking about here are not ecological problems, they are social problems and there's no time in the future that is going to be better to address those social problems then now when we have the least level of constraints on our options in any time in the future. We're going to see continued development, we've got 150 years of change that has occurred without these considerations ecologically and we've talked a lot of about the individual impacts to commodity driven type issues, cattle operators, to hunting, sportsman's hunting and we, we really do tend to stray away from the, the ecological issues and the ecological role of these species in the ecosystems that we're trying to manage. We tend to error towards to the social and that's natural. The big problems are social in nature. But if we ignore those, those ecological issues we ignore the design that was behind them that was not of our making and we do that at our peril.
Chris Servheen: To focus in this linkage zone issue one more time before we finish, we are at a time right now when we have the opportunity to fix something that was broken. We came into the west and we fragmented the habitat through roads and human development and various other things. We have the tools, we have the partnerships in place and we have the knowledge to fix this. To create linkage zones across the landscape for multiple species. And to create linkages that will allow healthy populations to remain in the American West from now on. But we only have about 10-15 years to do that because soon all those areas that are the, what we call fracture zones, places where people are building and roads are, those will be filled with fast highways and lots of development. And so if we invest now in the near term we'll have the ability to make sure that we have this linkage between the large blocks of land in the Northern Rockies, if we don't invest in the next 10 years or so we will never be able to recreate it and it will gone, it will be fractured forever. So we are at a very pivotal time for this linkage issue and it's critical to the health of all the large mammals in the Northern Rockies so this is a very important issue.
Jim Peck: Okay that's going to have to be our final word on that one. We need to move to the next segment.
[View the video of this discussion segment]
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