Green groups divided over next moves to protect Yellowstone grizzlies

A schism is growing in the environmental movement over Bush administration plans to remove Yellowstone’s grizzly bears from the endangered-species list. Bear numbers have roughly tripled since 1975, to about 600 bears today. Some ursine advocates want to call it a story of successful species recovery. They say delisting Yellowstone’s bears will prove that the Endangered Species Act works, and help insulate the cornerstone environmental law from charges of inefficacy. But others say 600 grizzlies is still too few, especially since they are cut off by development from breeding with bears in other parts of the Rockies. And they say the feds cannot be trusted to follow through on promises for ongoing protection. “The Bush administration has tried to gut forest management plans,” said Douglas Honnold of Earthjustice, “and yet the primary enforcement mechanism for protecting these bears is through forest plans.” If the Yellowstone bears are delisted, Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, and several other big green groups say they’ll sue.