Perhaps the greatest of all threats to grizzlies is premature delisting itself, and the prospect of relisting them later.

Delisting itself will likely trigger an inevitable “significant population event”.  The current population is estimated at 717 grizzlies. 674 is the agreed upon target. That equals 43 bears, 6 percent of the population, that may be viewed as excess to the population. We expect all three states to open trophy hunting for grizzlies as soon as is practical.

Post-delisting, there are several mechanisms that, singly or in tandem, could precipate or contribute to dramatic population losses. Hunting is one, overly aggressive conflict resolution and management is another. Furthermore the infamous McKittrick policy provides a get-out-jail card to anyone with enough brain cells to mutter the magic words, “I thought it was a black bear.”

All agree that having to reinitiate ESA protection for grizzlies, i.e., relisting, would be a nightmare of epic proportions. Lawyers, politics, paperwork, funding, special interests, and more lawyers. The harm to the Endangered Species Act, one of our most valuable laws, would be tremendous. The effects on the grizzly population would be similarly serious. Dozens, if not hundreds, of bears, could fall victim to the regulatory vacuum that would prevail during what would certainly be a drawn out relisting process. 

As the highest profile delisting in history, much is riding on successful delisting. There is extraordinary political pressure on decision makers. And the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is at stake. It is a one-of-a-kind nearly intact conservation jewel that we insist our grandchildren will be able to experience; wild and natural. Protecting the grizzly also protects the ecosystem, which protects the grizzly bear. Circle of life stuff.

The consequences of premature delisting are extreme, not only in human costs, but in terms of long term grizzly recovery.