Grizzly Bear Emigration and Land Use: An Interdisciplinary Case Study of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem




Shafer, Craig L.

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The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) is the largest tract of wild land remaining in the lower 48 states however its habitat is fragmented by private land development, roads, mining activity and other human activities. The flagship species in the GYE is the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) which persists here at this southernmost North American latitude. This GYE subpopulation has been isolated from other grizzly bear subpopulations in the United States for around a century. As a result, some scientists have measured a loss of genetic diversity. Retaining or reestablishing usable habitat connectivity between both the GYE and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in Montana and Alberta and the Selway-Bitterroot Ecosystem in Idaho and Montana would help mitigate this genetic loss. Using Geographic Information System analysis, factors that appear to contribute to how far grizzly bears have emigrated from the GYE in northward direction include large centers of human population and one section of interstate highway. The GYE itself is reviewed: history, resources and threats. Available land use planning options (e.g., county, state, federal, wilderness, buffer zones) are addressed and the more promising conservation options for the GYE are identified. Off-road vehicles and climate change complete the list of treated topics.



Planning, Yellowstone National Park, Dispersal, Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, Grizzly bear