Long-Awaited Plan To Protect Grizzlies In The North Cascades Should Restore Their Threatened Population

Last week, the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft plan to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem, a region they once roamed for thousands of years. The public is invited to submit comments on the proposal through November 13, 2023.

The Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear coalition praises the release of the draft plan and environmental impact statement, which takes a major step in bringing grizzly bears back to a suitable ecosystem spanning from Washington into British Columbia.  

“The time has come for the grizzly bear to return to its habitat to take its place in the Indigenous ecosystem,” said Scott Schuyler, policy representative for the Upper Skagit Tribe, whose territory lies within the recovery zone. “The Upper Skagit successfully coexisted with grizzly bears for thousands of years, and we should once more.”

The North Cascades is one of North America’s premier intact ecosystems — but it is incomplete without grizzly bears.

“Restoring grizzlies to their historic range in the North Cascades is an opportunity to redress a legacy of human-wildlife conflict and enable these incredible animals to inspire future generations,” said Kathleen Callaghy, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife. 

This is the second attempt by the agencies to restore grizzlies to the NCE after a 2015 process was halted by the Trump administration in 2020. At the time, more than 159,000 members of the public submitted comments supporting the reintroduction of grizzlies.

“I look forward to sharing the remarkable recovery of the North Cascades grizzly with future generations,” said Gordon Congdon, retired Wenatchee orchardist and former executive director of the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust. “Our work to restore the last missing mammal in the North Cascades will fulfill our unparalleled responsibility to pass down the natural heritage of the North Cascades to our children and grandchildren.”

The NCE is one of two federal grizzly bear recovery areas without an established population of bears and natural bear migration is unlikely to repopulate the area. Instead, based on decades of thorough research, wildlife biologists suggest safely relocating existing bears into the North Cascades.

“Grizzlies and humans coexist elsewhere in the West,” said Skagit County local Jack Oelfke, an avid hiker and former National Park Service manager. “We need to muster the courage and humility to bring them back as a critical part of our shared wild landscape here in the North Cascades.”

“Many rural residents living in the North Cascades recognize that they are in grizzly bear habitat,” said Jasmine Minbashian, executive director of the Methow Valley Citizens Council. “They recognize that as a native species, grizzlies were here before them and we should make room for them to return.”

During the 45-day comment period, the agencies gather public input to develop their final strategy on grizzly reintroduction in north central Washington. Public comments can be submitted HERE!

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