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Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet

September 22, 2009

Contact: Kristina Johnson
(415) 977-5619

Protections Restored for Yellowstone Grizzlies
Global Warming Threatens Bears' Key Food Source

Bozeman, MT--A federal district court today ordered Endangered Species Act protections reinstated for grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The decision was based in part on the fact that one of the bear's primary food sources, the whitebark pine, is disappearing as a result of global warming.

After the Fish and Wildlife Service decided to remove grizzlies from the Endangered Species list in 2007, more than 40 percent of bear range in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem received no habitat protection.  Nearly 2 million acres of high-quality habitat were opened to increased motorized access, more than 630,000 acres were opened for logging, and more than 850,000 acres were opened to oil and gas development.  With today’s court ruling, these lands will once again be managed for protection of bears as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. 

Statement of Sierra Club Deputy Executive Director Bruce Hamilton

Today's decision restores important protections for one of America's most impressive animals, the grizzly bear. Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states have already declined to just one percent of their historic range as a result of human encroachment. Now global warming threatens to push them to the brink.

Grizzly bears depend on high-fat whitebark pine seeds in order to prepare for hibernation each year. As a result of warmer temperatures, mountain pine beetles have begun to wipe out the bear's key food source. Without their traditional high-altitude food source, grizzlies are less likely to bear healthy cubs. They are forced to seek food at lower elevations, where they're more likely to encounter humans and other threats.

With federal protections in place, the Fish and Wildlife Service can now develop a new bear recovery plan that addresses the impacts of global warming. The grizzly bear is one of the lasting icons of America's wild legacy. Today's decision will help ensure that future generations have the chance to experience the awe of this magnificent wild creature.

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