Opinion

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Letter

BNSF Should Take Action to Protect Bears

It's time they were held accountable for that failure

The recent article on the growing numbers of grizzly bears killed by Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BSNF) is a good reminder that BNSF continues to ignore both its commitment to Montanans to operate responsibly and respectfully in this part of the state – and the law.

Fifteen years ago, BNSF, in keeping with requirements of the Endangered Species Act, committed to create and implement a plan to protect grizzly bear habitat as a way to “mitigate” the bears it kills on the tracks. Since that time, BNSF has invested billions of dollars upgrading its equipment while bears continue to die on the tracks. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks reports that BNSF has killed 30 grizzlies, including a record eight bears so far this year. And still no plan has been written.

It’s past time for BNSF to take action to protect bears. That plan should include direction for reducing grizzly deaths on the tracks; mitigation measures to take when bears are killed; and an outline for funding such actions. BNSF also needs to start living up to its reporting requirements. The most recent grizzly deaths, two cubs hit near Trego, were reported by Forest Service employees not by BNSF, even though a train was parked nearby, and BNSF had personnel at the scene.

For 15 years BNSF has ignored its legal and ethical responsibility to protect grizzly bears in this region. It’s time they were held accountable for that failure.

Sarah Lundstrum
Glacier Program Manager
National Parks Conservation Association
Whitefish