The Idaho Fish and Game Commission issued a policy statement last week saying it wants grizzly bears delisted in Idaho.
But the body that oversees management of all wildlife in the state said it does not support protecting grizzly bears in the Selway-Bitterroot area that, for more than two decades, has been identified as grizzly bear habitat.
The bears themselves may soon decide the matter by moving into the area as one did early in this century. The Fish and Game Commission may not like it but it will be required to protect bears in the newly occupied habitat whether it wants to or not.
The commission has long opposed the reintroduction of grizzly bears to the area where bears were killed off in 1946, in part because of the negative public reaction to the reintroduction of wolves in 1995.
For this reason, it's clear that reintroduction of grizzlies in this area is dead for a long time. Nonetheless, grizzly populations continue to grow throughout the Northern Rockies and the Yellowstone area for now.
In the long term, grizzlies are going to need every square mile of habitat where they can live mostly in peace with their neighbors. I doubt that federal biologists or the American public will allow the largest tract of roadless country in the lower 48 states be declared off-limits to grizzly bears.
Outfitters, who successfully convinced the Idaho Legislature to declare the Frank Church-River of No Return a disaster area because of the backlog of trail maintenance due to wildfires, will consider bears in the Selway-Bitterroot area inconvenient. But their brethren in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and other areas with grizzlies have adapted.
Grizzlies have added to the experience of their guests, who understand fully that they are camping in a truly wild area where nature is in control. It's the same force that has knocked down thousands of trees in the forest on trails at a time when government budgets are dropping.
I don't mean to pick on the outfitters. I know many people who consider themselves environmentalists who don't want to see grizzlies back in central Idaho, either.
But Idaho happens to be one of the few places on earth where grizzly bears can live. They are not easy neighbors - but neither are elephants, tigers and other wild animals we are forcing into increasingly smaller places to make room for more of us.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has shown it can protect and manage grizzly bears, so the populations grow in the Island Park Caldera region next to Yellowstone, the Tetons, the Selkirks and Cabinet mountains up north. A strong case can be made for delisting the grizzly in the Yellowstone area.
But until the commission that is supposed to be the state's top advocate for wildlife says its ready to make room for grizzlies in the wild heart of Idaho, I doubt delisting will come anywhere else.
Rocky Barker: 377-6484