Organization Claims Roads Are Contributing to Grizzly Deaths

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed a complaint in the District of Montana on Friday alleging that the United States Forest Service, along with its Regional Forester Leanne Marten, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service are violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by allowing roads to be built throughout certain areas, specifically the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, without completing the required consultations under the ESA, creating threats to grizzly bears. 

The plaintiff is seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, and for the court to require the federal organizations to follow the ESA and complete the consultations. The plaintiff cited that its members use the area for recreational activities, and that their “aesthetic, recreational, scientific, spiritual, and educational interests” are being adversely affected, and will continue to be injured if the defendants continue to ignore the impacts of cars and roads on grizzly bears. 

Friday’s complaint explained that roads increase bear deaths because they provide humans access to the grizzly bear habitats, this access allegedly leads to accidental bear shootings and intentional poaching.  Humans interacting with bear habitats can also give bears more access to human food and lead to them being killed by wildlife managers when the bears are searching for more human food. 

Giving humans access can also cause the grizzly bears to move to a suboptimal habitat, and train bears to stay in certain areas reducing the size of their habitats, even years after the roads have been closed to human use. The Alliance for the Wild Rocky’s explained that the bear’s displacement could reduce grizzly cub survival rates because of the decreased habitat quality and size. 

The plaintiff asked the court to require the defendants to reinitiate ESA consultations in the plans for the national forest and other areas to ensure that the fate of grizzly bears is being considered in all projects, and for costs and attorneys fees. 

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies is represented by the Public Interest Defense Center and the Bechtold Law Firm