In light of the recent article “Defending the Yaak,” by Tristan Scott, I would like to say that rerouting the Pacific Northwest Trail out of core grizzly bear recovery zones in Yaak would be a win for both the bears and us.
For such a fragile population of bears -- maybe three to five breeding females, 25 bears total -- any increased pressure is not good. This is particularly true because grizzly bears are one of the slowest reproducing mammals on the planet. Females don’t typically reproduce until about six-years-old and have an average litter of two cubs every three-to-four years. Any real deficit to the Yaak grizzlies, especially breeding females, could plummet the population or wipe it out. The reroute would grant those few remaining bears the chance to exist.
The positive for hikers is that the reroute would skirt along the wild and scenic Kootenai River. It has 10 high-point summits instead of six, and it passes through the supply towns of Libby and Troy. The reroute also has fewer miles on paved road.
A win for the bears. A win for us.
Dating back to 1980, Dr. Charles Jonkel supported a southerly route that avoided key grizzly bear recovery zones in Yaak. Even this past year, Dr. Lance Craighead and Wayne P. McRory compiled a substantial report that also supported a reroute.
To change the route requires an act of Congress, but it’s possible. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines in a commendable, bipartisan effort, recently pushed the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act through Congress. We know that our Montana delegation can work together to protect this wild country.
Please reach out to your officials today and let them know that rerouting the Pacific Northwest Trail would be a win for all.
-- Matt Holloway, Columbia Falls