The Endangered Species Act has always been a concern to our family ranching operation. As the grizzly bear expands it's territory and habitat closer and closer to our area, the inadequate language in the law addressing how a species can be de-listed is cause for great concern.
Expansion of the grizzly bear population has pushed bears far out into the plains of Montana. We are seeing more and more bear encounters in the urban settings, rural areas and within the private lands of farms and ranches. Confirmed grizzly bear sightings have happened within 100 miles of our ranch which is located in Central Montana. It won't be long before they are in our back yard.
The expansion is causing a great deal of concern for human safety in the rural areas. Parents are walking their kids to the school bus with a rifle over their shoulder. Farmers are packing guns while out checking crops, as the bears are invading their fields. Ranchers are packing guns just to walk from their house to the barn to check on livestock.
The economic impact of crop storage loss and crop damage from bears is growing at an alarming rate. Bears are invading field crops more and more as the population and habitat areas increase. I have seen pictures of a grain bin ripped open by a grizzly bear and the grain spilled out onto the ground. By the time the farmer realized there was a problem, the grain was ruined by rain.
Livestock loss to bear depredation is a real and costly burden to livestock producers. Inadequate funding and the burdensome process and having to have definitive proof keeps many from reporting losses for compensation. Many times the loss is not found until there is no way to definitively prove how the animal died, or the carcass is never found.
Even though a rancher may not be losing livestock to bear depredation, there is still an economic loss when bears are in the vicinity of where livestock are pasturing. Animals become nervous, conception rates are affected, they become hard to handle and daily weight gains are affected. The number of animals and pounds per animal are what a producer has to market. This can become a significant economic loss.
The grizzly bear population had recovered sufficiently to be de-listed from the ESA, only to be re-listed by court order. There needs to be adequate language in the law to have an orderly de-listing process that will allow for a species to be de-listed as soon as the population objectives have been reached. Once on the ESA list, a species will always be on the list as long as radical environmental groups use the courts to their advantage.
I ask our members of Congress to work toward helping create adequate language within the ESA to be able to de-list a species before that species becomes such an economic burden, not just for the agriculture industry, but other industries as well.