In a Major Victory for Wildlife, Grizzly Bears May Soon Roam North Cascades Again

March 15, 2024 – The Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Coalition celebrates today as federal agencies greenlight a plan to bring grizzly bears back to the North Cascades Ecosystem. 

The National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have announced the final environmental impact statement and grizzly bear reintroduction plan. The agencies’ decision to restore grizzlies to their historic homelands, where they are functionally extinct, is a huge victory for wildlife and the people who cherish our wild landscapes.  The decision is accompanied by a 10(j) rule that gives agencies flexibility under the Endangered Species Act to responsibly manage bears.

“We applaud the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for deciding to actively restore grizzly bears to North Cascades,” said Susan Holmes, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “As a keystone species, grizzly bears play an important role in the ecology of their habitat, and we are excited for their pending return to a place where they have long been absent.”

The North Cascades Ecosystem holds one of the most remote and rugged mountain ranges in the country and is one of only two grizzly bear recovery areas without an established population. The area is one of North America’s premier intact ecosystems and is optimal habitat for grizzlies. However, the last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear was in 1996. Habitat fragmentation and the low numbers of grizzlies in nearby populations make it highly unlikely that grizzlies would naturally recover in this area.

“After years of advocacy the Upper Skagit Tribe looks forward to the day the great bear returns to the rugged North Cascades which our people previously shared with Grizzlies for thousands of years,” said Scott Schuyler, policy representative for the Upper Skagit Tribe, whose territory lies within the recovery zone. “We thank leaders at the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Department of Interior for their intention to restore a cultural icon in the North Cascades.”  

Now, bears from healthy source populations would be translocated into the North Cascades over several years until an initial population of 25 is reached. 

“The Snoqualmie Tribe is excited to hear this news, and to know that this hard-fought effort to bring home grizzlies is close to becoming a reality,” said Snoqualmie Indian Tribe Tribal Chairman Robert M. de los Angeles. “This is a critical moment in history, with governments, organizations, and individuals working together to welcome grizzlies back after human action removed them from their home. Snoqualmie thanks the leadership of our Congressional Leaders, the National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Department of Interior for their persistent work and advocacy.”

For years, advocates in Washington state and beyond have weighed in supporting efforts to help the declining population of grizzlies and reintroduce bears to their historic habitat. A recent poll shows that 85% of Americans support grizzly restoration in the North Cascades. While 2023 public meetings did report some concern among Washington residents about living near grizzlies again, the 10(j) rule responds to those concerns.

“The agencies have shown that they are listening to local communities like ours by including necessary management flexibility for a successful reintroduction effort in the long run,” said Jasmine Minbashian, executive director of Methow Valley Citizens Council. “In eastern Washington, human-bear coexistence initiatives are already in progress. With the right resources focused on bear-smart infrastructure and education, rural communities can be a proud partner in the triumphant return of our majestic grizzly bears.”

A final Record of Decision will be signed following a legally-mandated 30-day waiting period. Find more information on the plan for North Cascades grizzly bear recovery from the Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Coalition at

“I can’t think of better news to usher in the promise of Spring than this historic step toward restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades,” said Paula MacKay, carnivore conservation specialist with Woodland Park Zoo. “As we await the final Record of Decision, the zoo is poised to promote the long-term coexistence of thriving human communities and a healthy grizzly bear population.”

 “Today we celebrate our national parks as places where wildlife thrives and ecosystems are made whole,” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “For years, NPCA has worked tirelessly to bring grizzlies back to their historic homeland. The return of the grizzly bear to North Cascades National Park is a symbol of the power of perseverance.”

“The grizzly bear is a critical part of the ecological and cultural fabric of the North Cascades. They belong here. Without them, our wild areas are diminished, less diverse and sanitized. The narrative about Cascades grizzly bear recovery will take decades to unfold. But with science, education and a little human tolerance, it can be one of the greatest conservation success stories of ours and future generations,” said Joe Scott, international program director for Conservation Northwest.   

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