THE LIGHTBULB

It might soon be grizzly bear hunting season in Wyoming. 

In the wake of a Trump administration decision last summer to remove the bear from the endangered species list, the state is considering considering allowing hunters to kill up to two dozen Yellowstone-area bears.

It would be the first grizzly bear hunt in the Lower 48 states since the icons of the Western United States were put on the endangered species list in 1975.

The prospect of a new hunting season for grizzlies has long been a source of controversy among residents near and patrons of Yellowstone National Park as the grizzly population has recovered to about 700 members in the area.

Anti-hunting advocates, including many environmental and Native American groups, contend the bear is still under threat from broad changes to the Yellowstone ecosystem. But as their numbers increased, hunting advocates and the state’s Wyoming Game and Fish Department point out, so have conflicts ranging from raided garbage cans to stalked livestock.

Moving the grizzly off the endangered species list, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said last June, was “one of America’s great conservation successes.” Yet the decision meant the species could once again be hunted in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. 

The Obama administration initially proposed taking the grizzly off the endangered list in 2016 before delaying a final decision after receiving a flood of more than 650,000 public comments on the proposal.

More broadly under Trump, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service has declined dozens of petitions to list a number of species as endangered or threatened, including several linked to climate change. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers want to rewrite to the Endangered Species Act in ways that empower states in listing decisions and make other reforms.

While grizzlies within Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks remain protected, those that stray outside now fall under the jurisdiction of state wildlife managers. Wyoming opened a comment period on the proposed grizzly hunt last week. A final decision is expected by May.

Wyoming’s proposal for its first grizzly hunt in 43 years would take “a very conservative approach,” according to Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Renny MacKay.

Licensed hunters would be allowed to take only a total of 12 bears — only two of which can be female — within the “demographic monitoring area” deemed suitable grizzly habitat surrounding Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Further from the parks, hunters can kill another 12 bears.

All grizzly hunters would undergo “mandatory education” in order to tell the difference between the genders, MacKay said. The proposal also takes the state’s park tourism business into mind: Wyoming plans to prohibit hunting near highways that bring parkgoers into Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

“We’re doing a whole bunch of things to make this a highly regulated approach,” MacKay said. He added the office found “people in Wyoming expressed support for a hunting season," based on eight in-person public meetings (plus a Facebook Live event) hosted by the department in the fall and winter about the bear hunt.

Even with those restrictions, Andrea Santarsiere, an Idaho-based senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, worried the taking of any female grizzlies could curtail the bear’s recovery because “they have really slow reproductive rates.”

“Killing just one or two could definitely impact the local grizzly bear population,” Santarsiere said. “Killing 14 could have far-reaching consequences.”

Back from the brink of extinction in the Yellowstone area, the grizzly population grew from an estimated 136 bears in 1975 to 757 in 2014. Since then, though, the population has contracted slightly, to 717 bears in 2015 and then to 695 bears the following year, according to annual reports from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. 

In contrast, as many as 50,000 grizzlies once roamed what became the Lower 48 states before hunting shrunk their footprint to just about 1,000 grizzlies living in northern Idaho and Montana, near Glacier National Park, and a handful in Washington, in addition to the Yellowstone grizzlies.

Environmentalists highlight ongoing ecological challenges to grizzlies’ food supply. An invasive lake trout, for example, has crowded out the native trout species — and because lake trout prefer to dwell deeper in the water than their native cousins, they are harder for bears to hunt. 

Insect infestation, fungal infection and rising temperatures have also contributed to the problems with another source of nourishment: the white bark pine, whose seeds provide protein to bears just before winter hibernation. Concerns about the decline in the pines prompted a federal court in 2007 to rule against an initial de-listing of the bear. 

Last month, Montana wildlife officials decided against holding a grizzly hunt. “Holding off on hunting for now, I believe, will help demonstrate our commitment to long term recovery,” said Martha Williams, Montana’s wildlife director. Idaho is still considering what to do in response to the delisting. 

A potential hunt is hardly the only way Wyoming is trying to deal with the growing grizzly population. The town of Cody, for example, recently chose to erect an electric fence around a landfill that attracted bears. And through its Bear Wise Wyoming program, the state educates residents throughout bear country on how to properly store barbecue grills and pet food to deter the curious carnivore from coming around homes.
 

POWER PLAYS

— EPA silent on soundproof phone booth: A high-ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Tom Udall of New Mexico, said Monday the Environmental Protection Agency is not cooperating with a Government Accountability Office probe into EPA chief Scott Pruitt's $43,000 soundproof phone booth. “The American people deserve an open and transparent budget process," Udall wrote to Pruitt. "Given your role as a public servant and trustee of taxpayer funds, it is your fundamental responsibility to fully cooperate with GAO."

In a statement to The Post, the GAO wrote that Udall is correct: "We have not yet received a formal response from EPA on this particular issue."
 

—  “Captain’s Desk:” The watchdog group American Oversight shared an image of an invoice on Monday for a $2,963 standing “captain’s desk” that was ordered for Pruitt’s office. The Post’s Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin wrote last week about the desk as part of a story of some of Pruitt’s expenses as EPA chief.

— "A challenging time to come to the EPA:" A scientist working in an embattled EPA program that evaluates chemicals people incidentally consume or inhale is fighting to keep it going in the face of opposition from the Trump administration, the chemical industry and its allies in Congress.  Kristina Thayer who was brought to the agency to run the Integrated Risk Information System program under President Obama in November 2016, told E&E News: “I knew after the election that this might be a challenging time to come to the EPA."

— Meanwhile: The Supreme Court on Monday allowed to continue two class-action lawsuits over the lead contamination in Flint, Mich. The high court said it would not get involved in the cases, leaving in place an appeals court decision from July 2017 that revived the suits, per the Associated Press.

— White hat rides into town: A leader of a Native American tribe is challenging Zinke’s suggestion that a U.S.-Mexico border wall would increase safety and security. In a letter to Zinke sent over the weekend, the chairman of the Tohono O’odman said a wall “will have a substantial negative impact” on the tribe and is “not the answer to improving border security." The letter follows Zinke trip to southern Arizona this weekend. The Tohono O’odham Nation’s tribe stretches across Arizona’s border with Mexico.

The letter, via the Center for Biological Diversity's Laiken Jordahl:

— Meanwhile: A political operative for American Bridge PAC, a political committee that supports Democrats, has been charged with assault after a confrontation with Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift. Wilfred M. Stark was charged with simple assault, the Associated Press reports. Stark reportedly approached Zinke after a House hearing last week, using his “full body to push” Swift out of the way as she tried to leave the room. Swift called the incident “terrifying,” per the AP.

— “Rothschilds controlling the climate:” A D.C. lawmaker pushed a conspiracy theory last week that snow flurries hitting the capitol were a result of Jewish financiers controlling the weather. “Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation,” D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) said in a video he posted to his official Facebook page. “And D.C. keep talking about, ‘We a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”

The Post’s Peter Jamison and Valerie Strauss explain the Rothschilds “are a famous European business dynasty descended from Mayer Amschel Rothschild, an 18th-century Jewish banker who lived in what is today Frankfurt, Germany. The family has repeatedly been subject over the years to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories alleging that they and other Jews clandestinely manipulate world events for their advantage." It’s also not the first time White has made such a comment, as The Post’s Fenit Nirappil and Paul Schwartzman detail here.

— Trump vs. the world: European Union officials are warning countries not to falter on global efforts to combat climate change as a result of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal or Britain’s plan to exit the EU. “U.S. disengagement on climate issues has strengthened the global resolve to fight climate change, and emboldened U.S. non-federal actors such as mayors and citizens,” said Manuel Szapiro, an EU official who focuses on energy issues, per Reuters.

THERMOMETER

— The Arctic’s carbon bomb might be even more potent than we thought: Scientists are now worried that the mass release of greenhouse gases from frozen Arctic soil may be more detrimental than we thought. Previously, it was believed the thawing permafrost would release its stored carbon as carbon dioxide, not methane, The Post’s Chris Mooney explains. The reason that's good, relatively speaking: methane warms the atmosphere faster than CO2. But new research published Monday suggests that methane releases “could be considerably more prevalent as Arctic permafrost thaws.”

— Tougher climate policies could save a stunning 150 million lives: "There is an overlooked benefit to greatly lowering carbon emissions worldwide" according to a journal Nature Climate Change, The Post's Darryl Fears writes. "In addition to preserving Arctic sea ice, reducing sea-level rise and alleviating other effects of global warming, it would probably save more than 150 million human lives." As nations reduce carbon dioxide emissions, they also lower the amount of traditional pollutants in the air that lead to heart and lung diseases.

— Man, it’s a hot one: Human-driven climate change will drive more heat waves in the United States, new research has found. Without human-driven warming, there would be half as many heat waves in the future, according to research from the University of Miami and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, per the Miami Herald. As early as 2027, parts of the United States could start seeing heat waves that can be largely blamed on climate change.

— “The greatest single threat:” More than 5 billion people could be affected by water shortages by the middle of the century, according to a new United Nations report on the world’s water. “Demand for water is projected to rise fastest in developing countries,” The Guardian reports. “Meanwhile, climate change will put an added stress on supplies because it will make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier.”

OIL CHECK

— Let the lobbying begin: Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum has led to a major lobbying push from foreign countries, companies and their American partners seeking exemptions from such tariffs. For example last week, top oil and gas executives left a meeting of the American Petroleum Institute at the Trump International Hotel in Washington to go to the White House and personally lobby the president, the New York Times reported.

In a statement on Monday, API chief Jack Gerard called for clarity from the Trump administration on such an exclusion process for the tariffs. “We support an exclusion process from the Department of Commerce that is both transparent and flexible,” Gerard said. “That will allow the U.S. oil and natural gas industry to continue our significant investments in producing, transporting and refining U.S. energy resources, building world-class infrastructure and creating high-paying American jobs.”

— Why does Saudi Arabia want to spend billions to enrich its own uranium? During an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reaffirmed the kingdom’s desire to keep up with Iran’s nuclear program, casting doubt on Saudi claims that it seeks to mine and enrich uranium solely for energy production, The Post's Steven Mufson writes. “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb," Mohammed said, "but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

— Swing states are pro-renewables: A new poll has found a majority of voters in five swing states support a move toward 100 percent renewable energy. The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll, conducted for the Sierra Club, found more than two-thirds of voters in Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia support statewide goals of 100 percent clean energy by 2030. The poll found 67 percent of voters in Virginia, 68 percent in Colorado and about 70 percent in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan support such a goal.  

DAYBOOK

Today

  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry will testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the department’s proposed budge.
     
  • The House Natural Resources Committee holds a legislative hearing on various bills.
     
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs holds an oversight hearing on “Policy Priorities for the Administration’s FY 2019 Budget for Indian Affairs and Insular Areas."
     
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety will hold a hearing on “the Nomination of John L. Ryder of Tennessee to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority.”
     
  • The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies holds a hearing on the budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
     
  • The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment holds a hearing on the 2018 Nuclear Regulatory Commission budget.
     
  • The House Transportation Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management holds a hearing on the impact of the 2017 wildfires on the United States.
     
  • The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association’s Coastal Summit 2018 begins.
     
  • The Atlantic Council holds an event on the future of solar energy.

Coming Up

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works holds a hearing on oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday.
     
  • The American Coalition for Ethanol holds the 10th annual DC Fly-In & Government Affairs Summit starting on Wednesday.
     
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans holds a hearing on Wednesday.  
     
  • The House Natural Resources Committee holds a markup on various bills on Wednesday.
     
  • The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies holds a hearing on the 2019 budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday.
     
  • The House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security holds a hearing on bureaucratic challenges to hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico on Wednesday.
     
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the 2018 Western Water Supply Outlook and Bills Related to Water Infrastructure and Drought Resiliency on Thursday.
     
  • The American Enterprise Institute holds an event on the future of infrastructure policy under Trump on Thursday.
     
  • USTR Robert Lighthizer will testify before the Senate Finance Committee on the president’s 2018 trade policy agenda on Thursday.
     
                                                                              
  • The Wilson Center holds an event on “Linking China’s Domestic and Global Energy Ambitions” on Thursday.
     
  • Berkeley’s Energy Institute at Haas holds its annual POWER Conference on Energy Research and Policy on Friday.
EXTRA MILEAGE

— It's good to plan ahead: There’s a small chance an asteroid the size of the Empire State Building may hit the Earth in 2135. Fortunately, NASA has a plan. “If the asteroid — it is named Bennu — decides to go rogue, they could send a nearly nine-ton ‘bulk impactor’ to push it out of Earth’s orbit,” The Post’s Cleve R. Wootson Jr. writes. “Or, more likely, they would gently nudge it out of its apocalyptic path using a nuclear device.”