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It seems a symbolic moment, this declaration (or proposal at least) that Yellowstone Park grizzly bears are no longer at risk of extinction, no longer officially “threatened,” no longer on the endangered species list.

Call it a win – tripling the grizzly population in the last 23 yers – for the Endangered Species Act.

grizzlyAs to how much you can call it a win for the grizzlies: That will take a while to work out. The change in status has been on the horizon for a while, what with 600 of the bests around the not-massive perimeter of Yellowstone. That’s not a lot of animals when it comes to some species, but bears cast a larger footprint than some. Bear numbers don’t work the same as, say, deer numbers.

And while one phase of the grizzly saga is over, but other developments in our relations with the animal are just arriving. Grizzly bear hunting may be coming in the Idaho-Wyoming-Montana area around Yellowstone, but likely not for two or three years, if then. The more immediate issue is how to ensure that grizzlies don’t slip back into “threatened” status as the rules concerning them become loosened.

That gray area is what many Idahoans (especially) encountered after the reintroduction and spread of gray wolves in Idaho and nearby areas. The reintroduction led to loud local complaints, and for good reason: The wolves did what wolves naturally do, and as a consequence people did what they do when wolves do what they do. The end results, among other things, have included shot and poisoned wolves.

If the announcement today was the first symbolic moment in the renewal of the grizzly, there will likely be a second. Will that come when the first bear is shot?

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