Grizzly bears will be actively restored to WA's North Cascades

The National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) announced on Thursday that they have made the decision to actively restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades. 

Grizzly bears had once roamed and occupied the North Cascades for thousands of years, but in the 20th century, humans nearly hunted them to extinction in the area. The last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear in the North Cascades was in 1996.

FILE-A large grizzly bear is spotted in Yellowstone National Park. (William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images)

"We are going to once again see grizzly bears on the landscape, restoring an important thread in the fabric of the North Cascades." said Don Striker, Superintendent of North Cascades National Park Service Complex.

The two agencies will seek to move three to seven bears per year for a period of five to 10 years to establish a population of 25 bears. 

Joint Record of Decision: Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan

Under the plan, grizzly bears in the North Cascades will be designated as a nonessential experimental population under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. This will provide authorities and land managers with additional tools for management that would not otherwise be available under existing Act regulations. 

FWS will publish a final 10(j) rule in the coming days.

The agencies did not set a timeline for when restoration will begin. 

The decision is the culmination of an Environmental Impact Statement process that began in 2022. Officials also said public feedback had played a key role in the decision process.  In 2023, more than 12,000 comments were received on both the draft Environmental Impact Statement and a proposed 10(j) rule.

The North Cascades ecosystem is about 9,800 square miles in size and roughly 85% of the mountainous region is under federal management. 


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