Public Comment Period Opens for Restoring Grizzlies to the North Cascades
The National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are seeking public input on a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that evaluates options for restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem in Washington. Grizzly bears occupied the North Cascades for thousands of years as an essential part of this ecosystem, distributing native plant seeds and keeping other wildlife populations in balance. In the 20th century, humans nearly hunted them to extinction in the area and the last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear in the U.S. portion of the North Cascades was in 1996.
“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.
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 wrote comments supporting the reintroduction of grizzlies.
“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.”
The current draft EIS offers several paths the agencies could take to restore this piece of the ecosystem. Among them, a “no action” alternative that would continue existing management practices, and two action alternatives that would both allow for the active restoration of grizzly bears.
“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.”
North Cascades Institute supports restoration of grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem.” Read more here >>
Thanks to Conservation Northwest for information used in this post, and for their ongoing leadership on this important regional issue. Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash.