Bearly speaking

| November 17, 2005
The posters for the Northern Rockies Nature Forum listed a Tuesday, Nov. 15, event titled "State of the Grizzly: Recovered or Reeling." Those posters also listed three forum participants: Kate Kendall, U.S. Geological Service research biologist and leader of the Northern Divide Grizzly Project in Montana; Chris Servheen, Grizzly Bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Lee Metzgar, retired professor of wildlife biology at the University of Montana.

None of those people appeared on Tuesday's panel, perhaps saying more about the contentious state of the discourse on environmental issues than any panel discussion could.

The "State of the Grizzly" panel began to unravel when Metzgar withdrew due to a personal conflict. The Forum's organizers, the Native Forest Network (NFN), substituted Brian Peck, grizzly recovery specialist for the Great Bear Foundation, and Doug Honnold, an attorney with Earthjustice, aiming for what NFN Director Matt Koehler calls "a diversity of perspectives."

Shortly after Kendall and Servheen learned of Honnold and Peck's addition to the panel, however, they withdrew. Kendall explains that she "was not comfortable being involved in a discussion of the politics of bear conservation," which the panel almost certainly would have turned out to be, since NFN had "substituted a lawyer who is actively involved in litigating agencies about grizzly bears and a bear advocate."

Servheen cites Honnold in particular in explaining his withdrawal, saying, "I cannot be involved in any forum with any litigator who is suing the federal government," adding "that's what [Honnold] does." Honnold agrees with that characterization, describing his job as "suing the federal government, almost always involving national forests and endangered species."

But Honnold still feels Servheen should have participated, saying "Servheen's job is to be in the press all the time, and yet he's not willing to defend his views in a situation where someone can ask questions and challenge it."

Servheen counters by citing his regular presentations to the public, "mostly to people who don't agree, probably more than Honnold presents his position to people who disagree."

Still, while Honnold and Servheen might extol the virtues of dialogue, it doesn't seem likely they'll be talking to each other any time soon-even though dialogue is about to become more important than ever: on Tuesday, the Department of the Interior held a press conference to announce a draft plan to de-list Yellowstone's grizzlies, subject to public comment.

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