Grizzly Bears are Returning to the North Cascades Ecosystem of Washington State

I am reminded of Crosby Stills and Nash’s lyrics “It’s been a long time coming,” with the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recent announcement of a record of decision to actively restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem of Washington State.

Grizzly bears roamed the North Cascades Ecosystem for thousands of years until hunting and trapping extinguished them from the landscape. The last know grizzly bear in the ecosystem was sighted in 1996.

Grizzly sow and cubs near Roaring Mountain | Credit NPS

The Endangered Species Coalition and our members have long advocated for their reintroduction. We, along with other local and national groups, made our voices heard for their return in hearings during the Trump years until that administration shut down agency attempts to restore the bears.

When the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park restarted the process of possible reintroduction two years ago we were ready. Our members: testified at local hearings, wrote newspaper letters to the editor, helped educate local communities about how we can coexist with grizzlies, contacted our Washington congressional representatives and governor, and submitted over 7,500 comments to the draft environment statement on grizzly bear reintroduction.

Agencies will seek to move three to seven grizzly bears per year for a period of five to 10 years to establish an initial population of 25 bears. 

Under the decision, grizzly bears in the North Cascades will be designated as a nonessential experimental population under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act.

The designation is based on extensive community engagement and conversations will provide authorities and land managers with additional tools for management that would not otherwise be available under existing Endangered Species Act regulations. 

If all goes well there is a possibility that come  fall we could have paws on the ground in the North Cascades.

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