Stephen Hartgen 01Don’t ya’ just love it when Idahoans get lectured on how more grizzly bears are scheduled for introduction into the state and how we better get used to it ‘cause, well, it’s the law?

A recent Idaho Statesman article seems to say this is good thing. How’s that? The grizzly bear is acknowledged in the article (June 11) as a “ferocious, at times man-eating predator.”  Yep, ‘man-eating predator’ sure sounds like a creature you’d like the kids to meet up with on a mountain trail.

Nonetheless, if a grizzly makes its home in Idaho, it’s deemed protected, with of course additional restrictions on land use, access, ranching, multiple uses and most other human activities.

Grizzlies roaming the Central Idaho region would have many negative impacts, and not just on humans. As “apex predators,” the grizzlies will start with dining on the elk and deer, then drop down from higher elevations to the rivers’ smorgasbord for fish and nearby livestock. They’re not particular eaters; just about anything living or dead, including humans, is on the menu.

Barely a year goes by without a report of a bear attack somewhere in America, usually with severe consequences to the human victims. Bears are big, strong and fast. They’re pretty much immune from harm except by humans with guns and, even then, not easily taken.

On their 1805 trek across the continent, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark quickly developed a deep respect for grizzlies, which proved very difficult to kill. Says Clark of one encounter on the Upper Missouri River, “a verry large and a turrible looking animal, which we found verry hard to kill. We Shot ten Balls into him before we killed him, & 5 of those Balls through his lights.” Lewis estimated the weight of the bear at 500-600 pounds, about twice the size of the average black bear. He later dryly noted that, “I find that the curiosity of our party is pretty well satisfyed with rispect to this anamal.”

No kidding. If grizzlies are returned to the Central Idaho region, it’s a sure bet that, to protect the grizzly population, human use of the rivers and land will be restricted, as will be camping, hiking and mountaineering.

And who will want to raft a river knowing these carnivores are awaiting you at the next campsite? And good luck with getting your children and female friends or wives to go out into “griz country.” 

The folks who do go will need to be packin’ a stout handgun at the minimum; so-called “bear spray” cannisters won’t be much good when a griz is comin’ at ya. I’m reminded of the Montana outdoorsman whom the federal bureaucrats charged with illegally shooting one.  He said that, “When I saw that griz’ smokin’ down on me, I knew who was the endangered species.”

Beyond the increased threat to humans, some bear studies point out that Central Idaho is marginal bear country at best and always has been. There’s not enough food for a grizzly population which would inevitably bump up against human presence. Once they’ve reduced the deer and elk, they’ll move down into adjacent ranching country to sniff out the cattle and sheep, which will soon be restricted to “protect” the predators.

Think of them perhaps as clawed and toothed Spotted Owls, filling the same political role in the ongoing drive by wilderness advocates to rid the landscape of mankind.

How’s that for logic? We move the “victim species” out of the way to make room for the toothed and clawed.  

None of this seems to worry the promoters who think expanded bear introduction is just fine. This spring, a grizzly bear was spotted in the Kelly Creek area of the Clearwater River drainage in Central Idaho, one apparently previously released in Montana. Wildlife officials have issued a warning as to its presence in this popular camping and fishing area.

If it’s a choice between dangerous bears and humans, under the twisted logic of some, it’s the human presence which will soon give way, which is just what some want.

They envision a continuous, de facto wilderness, an off-limits tract, running down the spine of the Rocky Mountains from Canada, through North and Central Idaho, down through the Bitterroots and Centennial Mountains, through Yellowstone Park, across Wyoming and down the Colorado ranges to New Mexico and Arizona. It would roll back human presence, such as it is, with the land returned to its pre-settlement state.

What better way to accomplish that than by introduction of killing predators which will drive out the humans? 

In a Facebook queue, the grizzly article is followed by numerous comments, many of them negative on the grizzly introduction. “What’s your plan?” asks the author, who seems to think there’s no alternative.

But there is. Don’t expand their range. Idahoans of many persuasions see the obvious weaknesses in an Endangered Species Act which supplants human reasonable use with extremist, pro-predator preferences and the use of other ‘spotted owl” plants and animals as surrogates to force Americans out of the forests, plains, mountains and rivers.

The current White House isn’t likely to acquiesce to such a move, nor is Idaho’s congressional delegation, despite exhortations from ecos and their media puppies who couldn’t outrun a forest ant or a morel mushroom, much less a grizzly.

Western lands can hardly accommodate grizzlies right where they are now, in Yellowstone Park. Guides in that region say that country is crawling with bears already.

So what’s the reason for expanding their range, except to drive out human presence? That appears to be the tooth and claw of it. 

Stephen Hartgen is a retired five-term Republican state legislator from Twin Falls, where he served on the House Revenue & Taxation Committee and was chairman of the House Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.