Biden Administration Proposes Grizzly Reintroduction in North Cascades

April 5, 2024

Grizzly bears could soon return to Washington's North Cascades under a plan proposed by the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Three to seven bears would be introduced in the forests of north-central Washington state over five to 10 years based on the plan detailed in a final environmental impact statement. The initial goal would for a population of 25 bears, though the eventual aim is 200, according to the document. 

While grizzly bears once roamed the North Cascades, the agencies said in the EIS that there is now "no confirmed evidence of current grizzly bear presence." Grizzly populations in the lower 48 states were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. 

After weighing three alternatives, the agencies supported designating the bears as a "nonessential experimental population," which would also allow for the animals to be killed or relocated if they harm or threaten humans or livestock. NPS emphasized that the EIS does not represent a final decision. The agency plans to issue a record of decision in the coming weeks, according to a press release.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Public Lands Council, an arm of NCBA, oppose the agencies' plan, saying reintroduction "will impose a severe burden" on livestock producers and rural communities.

“Dropping new apex predators into rural Americans’ backyards is not something that the federal government should undertake without consensus," PLC director Sigrid Johannes said in a press release. "State and local stakeholders have made their serious concerns about this proposal known for years now, and plowing forward to the detriment of local farmers and ranchers would be unwise for both conservation of the species and health of the rural economy."

But the plan has been praised by environmental groups such as the National Wildlife Federation and the Center for Biological Diversity, as well as by tribes in the region. 

"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 is in the recovery zone.

Source: Agri-Pulse