You can take the man out of New Jersey, but it appears you can’t take the New Jersey out of the man. Republican Congressman and Montana gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte demonstrated that adage this month when he told the U.S. House of Representatives that grizzly bears should be delisted from the Endangered Species Act because the bears are trying to break into houses and eat children.
Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Montana) said on the floor of the House of Representatives that grizzly bears are turning to children as food sources.
“Parents told us how they put bars on their windows because the grizzly bears were looking in their children’s bedrooms. At the point bears view children as a food source, we need to make changes. We need to put human safety ahead of the recovered grizzly bear,” Gianforte said, when introducing a bill that would amend the Endangered Species Act.
Gianforte’s remarks to the House were not driven by science, but the anecdotes Gianforte thinks substitute for rigorous research and analysis. Dave Mattson, who has studied grizzly bears for two decades, noted that Gianforte’s remarks betrayed an ignorance about the animal:
“Representative Gianforte’s statement is yet another example of the evidence-free hyperbole that has come to typify our political discourse. It degrades the dignity of his political office and insults the intelligence of anyone who is the least bit informed about grizzly bears,” Mattson said.
Montanans might disagree about whether grizzlies should still be listed on the Endangered Species list, but we understand that we should respect wildlife enough to prevent unnecessary conflict with the animals and not rely on the kind of fearmongering and bad science that led to grizzlies being pushed to the edge of extinction in the lower 48.
I get that grizzlies are probably terrifying to Gianforte: you can’t throw money at them to make them go away, and they are more intimidating than the bears he’s probably accustomed to from back home, but his fear and ignorance should not drive federal policy.
Science and respect for Montana’s wild creatures should. Maybe someday Congressman Gianforte will understand that.