Group Files Suit To Bring Grizzly Bears Back To Arizona

By Chloe Jones
Published: Tuesday, July 2, 2019 - 5:05am
Updated: Tuesday, July 2, 2019 - 12:25pm

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Grizzly bears
Ture Schultz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Grizzly bears.

Grizzly bears long roamed Arizona and other Western states before the majority were wiped out by European settlers in the early 1900s. A Tucson-based nonprofit group is seeking to bring them back.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a federal lawsuit Thursday claiming that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is not fulfilling its obligation under the Endangered Species Act to fully recover the grizzly bear population. There are currently about 2,000 grizzlies in the lower 48 states, less than 5 percent of their historic range. Andrea Santarsiere, senior attorney with the center, says reintroducing the bears would benefit more than just their population.

“They eat a lot of insects and they eat a lot of roots. So, as they're foraging, if you ever watch grizzly bear forage, a lot of times, they're like turning over rocks and they're digging and that helps spread seedling or seed, so plant populations flourish,” said Santasiere

Santarsiere says another benefit is a phenomenon known as “trophy cascades,” which essentially means populations of prey get stronger because the bears usually target the old and weak. She said the center has not received a response to its lawsuit. 

This is not the first time the center has tried to reintroduce the grizzlies to the West.

“The center filed a petition to the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014 asking the ... service to consider other areas where grizzly bears could be reintroduced and could flourish. But they denied our petition,” said Santasiere.

 Santarsiere said the petition identified areas near the Grand Canyon and Mogollon Rim as places where the bears could flourish. The center has not heard a response from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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