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Susan M. Roberts


In 1975, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the grizzly bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Following the listing, a recovery plan was drafted in which the Bitterroot Ecosystem of central Idaho and extreme western Montana was one of six proposed grizzly bear recovery areas. It was the only one of the six, however, which did not contain a resident population of grizzlies. The Fish and Wildlife Service eventually accepted a proposal submitted by a coalition of environmental and timber industry groups. The coalition proposed to reestablish a population of grizzlies in the Bitterroot by translocating 25 bears over five years from existing populations in the US and Canada. The proposal, however, included significant concessions, including reduced protection for the reintroduced grizzlies and management of the grizzly population by a Citizen Management Committee. A large contingent of regional and national environmental groups quickly rose up in vociferous objection to the proposal exposing a significant rift within the environmental movement. These environmentalists objected to the very idea of Citizen Management and also claimed that the proposed recovery area was too small to ensure recovery. Drawing on interviews and document analyses, this dissertation employs an environmental pragmatist approach to examine the intra-environmentalist disputes that flared up throughout the Bitterroot grizzly recovery debates. The dissertation focuses on the relationship between environmental ideologies, science, and conservation advocacy, with an eye toward examining how environmentalists crafted and defended rival proposals for grizzly recovery. Through this interpretive lens, the dissertation aims to explain the existence and persistence of this intra-environmentalism rift as well as explore its ramifications for environmentalism in the region. While no wholly unified environmental movement can ever be possible or is even necessarily desirable unwavering commitments to unreachable ideals on the part of many environmentalists are hindering the growth, flexibility and efficacy of conservation in the region. The main contribution of this dissertation will be to provide an empirical case study that defends the environmental pragmatist assertion that hostile and unnecessary divisiveness within the environmental movement ultimately obstructs the development of a more successful environmentalism.



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