Editor's note: This is the second of two parts.
Instead of trophy hunting them, grizzlies from Greater Yellowstone and the NCDE should be relocated to tribal nations with biologically suitable habitat in the Great Bear’s historic range and inspire cultural, economic and environmental revitalization to those tribes.
Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the FWS proposed relocating grizzlies to achieve a viable population in the North Cascades, so why does Fish and Wildlife Service not discuss the Grizzly Treaty with us?
Last fall, we provided testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on this issue. The disregard of the federal-Indian trust responsibility by the FWS in the grizzly delisting process coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the ESA under the Trump Administration, prompted tribal nations to move forward with the formulation of a Native American Endangered Species Act (NA-ESA) as a counterweight. Sovereign tribal lands hold several threatened and endangered species and vital habitat, and it is time for tribal people to have a greater input into the management and protection of these species.
In the present political climate, for some species an NA-ESA may be the only viable path to survival. As tribal nations, our sovereignty is consistently compromised by the FWS and the states in respect to wildlife management, including FWS’s administration of the ESA on tribal lands. A NA-ESA would enhance tribal sovereignty, provide vocational opportunity for tribal members, and enable the melding of contemporary biological discipline with tribal Traditional Ecological Knowledge in management policies and practices.
When the Yellowstone grizzly was taken off the Endangered Species list, Wyoming proposed one of the most egregious trophy hunts that would likely have driven these sacred grandparents to near extinction again. Even without a hunt, the threats to grizzlies are endless: rapid changes to their habitat due to climate change and human encroachment, dwindling food sources, and endless oil and gas leasing on our ancestral lands upon which the grizzly depends. For too long, the state of Wyoming and Trump administration have ignored our perspective. Every day, the U.S. government is revealing that its allegiances to fossil fuel companies matter more than its fiduciary responsibilities to tribal nations, a responsibility that began 243 years ago at the birth of the nation.
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The Blackfoot Confederacy recently urged the FWS to stop these abuses and flawed attempts to delist the grizzly bear. In our submission, we urged the government to keep the grizzly listed and protected.
As we write, one of our most sacred sites, Badger-Two Medicine — a holy site imbued by the Ba’ksíkoyi, the sacred grizzly bear — is once more threatened by fossil-fuel leases. It is long overdue that tribal people have greater input into the management and protection of these species.
Our collective door is open to the federal government to sit down and discuss a positive route forward that is a “win-win” for all concerned, not least for the sacred grizzly bear. That blueprint is the “The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration”
The tribal coalition succeeded in protecting these sacred beings in Yellowstone for the time being, but other areas and connected populations are in grave danger. The NCDE is on the administration’s chopping block. Join with us to defend the sacred; it is not only our children and future generations that will be robbed of a critical part of their heritage – it will be yours, too.