Friday, November 25, 2011

Yellowstone's Grizzly Bears to Remain on the Endangered Species List

A mother grizzly bear and her cubs in Yellowstone National Park

A federal appeals court has recently proclaimed that grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park shall remain on the endangered species list, due to the effect of climate change on the animals' white-bark food source. The decision was a major victory for conservationists in their battle to keep the bears on the list. This ruling made by the U.S 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had struck down the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service's decision in 2007 to remove the animals from the list. The court noted that climate change has increased speed of a beetle infestation that devastates the bears' vital food source of white-bark pine trees. The three-judge panel kept note of conservationists' warnings that the loss of these trees in the upper elevations in and around the national park would force the bears to search for food in more heavily populated areas. This would bring them into conflicts with local people and livestock. And it is because of this behavior that wildlife officials had to euthanize the bears in record numbers. According to a multi-agency study team, an estimated that 75 grizzly bears were either killed or removed from the wild in 2010.
A mountain pine beetle. One of the major pests in destroying the bears' vital food source.

As part of the argument, the appellate panel quoted the Fish and Wildlife Service's as having "failed to adequately consider the impact of global warming and mountain pine beetle infestation on the vitality of the region's white-bark pine trees." The jurists also discovered that warmer temperatures in recent years allowed the beetles to survive the seasonal die-off, allowing them to destroy 16 percent of the trees and damage more than 25 percent. The extent of the damage caused by the beetles is a subject of debate for the Fish and Wildlife Service, but scientists studying the problem describe the infestation in ominous terms. According to Diana Tomback, a white-bark pine expert at the University of Colorado Denver, studies have shown that majority of watersheds have in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem have been disrupted with lots of spaces where there is 90 percent-plus mortality of beetle-damaged mature trees. The beetles attack the trees by penetrating under the bark and digging out internal canals that accommodate thousands of larvae. The carving then stresses the pines, turning them into vivid red.
White-bark pine trees

This article gives a clear representation of how global warming should be taken seriously. Not only does it affect life up in the northern regions, but also further down south away from the arctic exposure. Because of this, it is crucial to battle this environmental catastrophe in virtually every corner of this world. Wildlife everywhere is affected in one way or another. In the case of grizzly bear, they are being forced to move into places where there are people leading into conflicts and ending in tragic results. In 2010, at least 75 bears were euthanized because of this behavior. Little did wildlife officials know that global warming has been pushing the animals to search for new places to forage when beetles have been destroying their major food source. I believe that since the matters concerning the bears' status as endangered species have been taken care of, it is time to tackle the problem of beetle infestation affecting Yellowstone. The first national park of the United States is in a great need of help, and so are its inhabitants. More importantly, it is time to further battle the ongoing threat of global warming.

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