Every cloud has a silver lining. Take climate change, for instance ? it is actually saving bears, would you believe? At least, this appears to be the logic of a certain type of so-called conservationist.
Saved from what? Why, from those nasty humans, of course. But how? Well, the bear species in question is potentially under some pressure because of climate change, which means that it is endangered, so its legal protection has been restored, which in turn means it cannot legally be culled.
In short, the bear is potentially endangered, which is good news because now it cannot be killed? Yes, I know. The logic is bizarre. But it illustrates neatly how some people are more anti-hunter than they are pro-animal. Let me give you the background.
The protectionist lobby is cock-a-hoop over a recent decision by the US Court of Appeals to restore full legal protection for the grizzly bear population in Yellowstone National Park. The ruling overturned the US Fish and Wildlife Service?s decision in 2007 to remove the resurgent Yellowstone grizzly population from the endangered species list.
The crux of the case was climate change, which is said to have accelerated a beetle infestation that destroys one of the bear?s most important food supplies ? the bark of the white pine. The court was persuaded that if, in future, this important food supply dwindled, the grizzlies might be forced to forage in more populous areas, which could create more conflict with humans.
However, a degree of conflict already exists, of course. Yellowstone?s grizzly bears have tripled in numbers to 600 over recent decades and have munched their way through an increasing number of hapless eco-tourists. Park and wildlife offi cials have been forced to cull increasing number of bears for reasons of public safety, with the toll standing at 75 bears in 2010. The new court ruling eliminates this option, even though such a cull was no threat to the bear population.
Now, many of us might agree with the judge?s sentiment that the grizzly bear is ?both revered and feared as symbol of wildness, independence and massive strength?. And as for the potential problems for the Yellowstone bears posed by ?climate change? (note how that term is now used instead of global warming, presumably because the globe has not actually warmed since 1998) well, that might well be true. I don?t know, and neither do the scientists, really. It was only mooted as a possibility, but the court held that such a possibility had not been adequately assessed when the 2007 decision was made. Hence the latest ruling. This is an example of the fabled ?precautionary principle? of environmental legislation coming into play.
All the above reasoning might be fair enough. But what concerns me is the undisguised glee which greeted the ruling forementioned and the determination to make it apply to other species. Licensed ?hunting? was no threat whatsoever to the Yellowstone bears as a species. So what, exactly, are the protectionists celebrating? If climate change really is the underlying problem for the bears, the court ruling does damn all to solve it. The potential extinction of an iconic species through climate change doesn?t seem like a laughing matter to me.
The unedifying fact is that a certain sort of person or organisation loves to milk issues such as climate change for their own vested interests, be these commercial, personal or career ones. In this country, how long will it be before we hear calls for the red grouse to be taken off the quarry list because its habitat is threatened by ?global warming?? Of course, we all know that such a ban, unlikely as it might be, would effectively sound the death knell of this iconic and unique upland British species, which depends so heavily on man?s management of a semi-natural habitat. But doubtless champagne corks would be popping somewhere.
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