Chair Grijalva Introduces “Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act” Ahead of Expected Federal Ruling on Endangered Species Act Protections

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today introduced the Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act, which ensures that grizzly bears are permanently protected for their ecological and cultural value and guarantees Native American tribes a role in conserving and managing the species. Grizzly bears are considered sacred by many tribes, but only a small fraction of historic grizzly populations now exist in the lower 48 states.

The bill, listed as H.R. 2532, is available online at http://bit.ly/2YdDeHy. Among other measures, the bill:

  • Bans trophy hunting and non-discriminatory predator control measures that may result in taking of grizzly bears on public lands
  • Permits “take” and “possession” of grizzly bears only for certain purposes going forward
  • Requires federal consultation with tribes before relevant permits are issued and before any major federal action that could impact grizzly bears or their habitat
  • Creates a process for reintroduction of grizzly bears on suitable land of willing tribes

The bill, which enjoys a wide range of conservationist and tribal support, comes at a critical moment for grizzly conservation. In 2017, the Department of the Interior delisted the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bear population from the endangered species list. The states of Wyoming and Idaho soon after announced grizzly bear trophy hunts.

In 2018, a federal court struck down the decision to delist the GYE grizzly bear, ruling that grizzlies now living in isolated pockets can’t be delisted one pocket at a time given the species’ overall struggles to survive. That ruling restored federal protections for the population and blocked any potential trophy hunts.

The Trump administration and the state of Wyoming have appealed that decision, and an appeals court ruling is possible later this year.

“Instead of making the country wait on pins and needles, Congress should just go ahead and protect of one of our country’s most beloved species,” Grijalva said today. “Grizzles are important to this country, and our laws should reflect that. Just because we brought the bald eagle back from the brink of extinction doesn’t mean we suddenly allowed people to start killing them again. Grizzly bears should be afforded the same level of long-term protection.”

Quotes in Support of Grijalva’s Bill

"This legislation rightly recognizes the need for both the preservation of grizzly bears in the wild and the involvement of Tribal Nations in their management. We're pleased to see action to safeguard the natural and cultural value of these great animals for future generations.” – Kirin Kennedy, Associate Legislative Director for Lands and Wildlife, Sierra Club

“Every living species provides an ecological balance to Nature. Removing one critical plant species, wildlife species, and the winged ones, creates an imbalance. Our ancestors have always known about the importance of ecological balance as our Creator intended Nature to be. To remove our Uncle, the Grizzly Bear, in the interest of trophy hunting and mineral extraction will forever damage other species and ecological balance as we know it.” – Ben Nuvamsa, former Chairman, Hopi Tribe

“This bill signals a cultural change in America’s support for grizzly bears, wilderness protection and Tribal rights. It combines the best science and our humane relationship to the Earth. The addition to the bill of independent scientific evaluation protects grizzly management from unacceptable political interference.” – Barrie Gilbert, Conservation Ecologist and Professor Emeritus, Utah State University 

“The grizzly bear’s importance to many Native Americans underscores its iconic status in our country. We applaud Representative Grijalva and his colleagues for introducing the Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act. This bill fights grizzly bears’ decline due to trophy hunting and other factors, helping ensure the species does not go extinct.” – Sara Amundson, President, Humane Society Legislative Fund

“The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association represents the Eleven Lakota, Dakota & Nakota Reservations of the Great Sioux Nation, the Ponca, the Ho-Chunk, the Mandan,Hidatsa Arikara, the Turtle Mt. Chippewa and Omaha. Our most sacred sites, the Bear's Lodge and Bear Butte, include narratives of the grizzly bear. Our holy people gained insight and healing knowledge from the grizzly. There were more grizzlies in our sacred Black Hills than almost anywhere else until Custer carved the Thieves Road in 1874. The most famous photo of Custer from the Thieves Road is of him with a grizzly he trophy hunted. That image is symbolic of the theft of the Black Hills and the breaking of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, the consequences of which we still confront today on our reservations. The history of the Lakota-Dakota people and that of the grizzly are intertwined, as are our futures. The Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act is central to the survival of both – our culture, and the Great Bear’s existence.” – A. Gay Kingman, Executive Director, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association

“The Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council serves tribal nations located in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Alberta who all called the Yellowstone and Glacier regions home before they were parks. From then until now, the grizzly has been ever-present, albeit tenuously. There is no soundbite that can communicate the importance of the grizzly in our cultures, but the fact that our ancestors wouldn’t say the name of the grizzly out of respect speaks to the Great Bear’s cultural significance. It is time that tribal nations had input and parity in decisions that will determine the future survival of our sacred ancestor, the grizzly bear. The Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act provides that opportunity, and the promise of cultural and economic revitalization for tribes who hold a fundamental connection to the grizzly and the habitat that the grizzly once imbued with power before being taken to the brink of extinction by state and federal policies imposed upon our lands.” – Tom Rodgers, Senior Adviser, Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council

“Our elders teach how the grizzly bear brought us our medicines. ‘Grizzlies know not only about roots and herbs for physical healing but also about healing mental conditions,’ they say. In the socio-economic bondage we survive in, our reservation communities need that healing more than ever today. The grizzly bear isn’t a ‘trophy game animal,’ the grizzly is our relative, a grandparent. The terms we use for grizzly bears are those we use for people; we call female grizzly bears ‘woxúúsei,’ bear women, and their cubs ‘hi-níisóóno,’ meaning her child or children. In the long struggle to protect the grizzly and in turn our sacred, ancestral lands that the grizzly protects for us, we defend our sovereignty from state and federal intrusion; we defend our treaty rights; we fight flagrant abuses of consultation mandates; and we defend our spiritual and religious freedoms. The Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act reflects those essentials, inspired as it was by the historic treaty, The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration, to which our Northern Arapaho elders and spiritual leaders were signatories.” – Lynnette Grey Bull – Senior Vice President, Global Indigenous Council, and Spokesperson for the Northern Arapaho Elders Society of the Wind River Reservation

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