Removal of a campground and other facilities at Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone National Park would save 1.6 grizzly bears over the next decade, a park report concludes.
A summary of the final environmental impact statement says that the National Park Service is trying to reduce grizzly bear deaths and human injuries by restricting activities around Fishing Bridge while still providing some visitor services and facilities there.The Park Service plans to close the campground in three phases up to 1990. Because of opposition from Cody businessmen and Wyoming congressmen, a 360-unit recreational vehicle park will remain open.
Environmentalists want all facilities removed at Fishing Bridge, an area scientists call some of the park's best natural grizzly bear habitat.
Of the 2,905 comments received on the draft impact statement, 1,312 or about 45 percent favored removing all facilities there, the report says.
The environmental impact statement says making no changes at Fishing Bridge would cause 3.5 grizzlies to be removed in the next 10 years. Confrontations between bears and people would continue if no action is taken, the document says.
The best scenario for grizzly bear recovery would be removing all facilities and not replacing them elsewhere in the park, the statement says. That would save 2.4 bears in the next decade, it concludes.
But the figures are raising skeptical eyebrows on both sides of the controversial issue.
"It's ridiculous," said Cody Mayor Dorse Miller.
"We're cutting those grizzlies up and putting .16 bears a year in the road for people to see," he added sarcastically. "Knowing the grizzly, it will move across the road the next year to Lake and then we'll have to remove Lake Lodge and all that, too."
Lance Olsen, director of the Great Bear Foundation in Missoula, said he is not convinced of the Park Service's numbers in the environmental impact statement.
"I don't think it will save any bears," Olsen said of the plan to shut down the 310 campsites. "I think they will lose as many bears as in the no-action alternative. It's very difficult to prove either way."
Closing the campsites would increase human activity at the lake, he predicted, and end up attracting more grizzlies there, just a few miles from Fishing Bridge.