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Biodiversity: Will grizzlies return to the North Cascades?

Grizzlies are roaming farther north and encroaching on Polar bear habitat, PHOTO COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

Will grizzlies once again roam the North Cascades? Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

National Park Service launches 3-year study on possible restoration

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a big move for grizzlies and wild ecosystems, the National Park Service this week launched a three-year environmental study to evaluate to possibility of restoring the apex predators to the North Cascades.

“This is the first stage of a multi-step process to help inform decisions about grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades ecosystem,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “The National Park Service and our partners in this effort haven’t made any decisions about the bear’s restoration at this time as federal law requires us to look at a range of options, including not restoring grizzlies to the area.”

“The Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan calls on us to fully consider the restoration of the grizzly bear in the North Cascades, and the process ensures we solicit the public for their input before putting any plan into action,” said FWS Director Dan Ashe. “We will work together with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, state of Washington, and the public as we move through the EIS process.”

Grizzlies have been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act since 1975, and listed by the state of Washington in 1980. The Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a recovery plan in 1982, which includes a call for studying a potential North Cascades reintroduction.

The North Cascades ecosystem encompasses 9,800 square miles in the U.S. and another 3,800 square miles in British Columbia, Canada. A few grizzly bears have been sighted in the Canadian part of the ecosystem. No grizzly bears have been sighted on the U.S. side for several years.

The U.S. side of the ecosystem includes North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

“Today’s announcement presents a unique opportunity for us to fully participate in a rigorous public process that will consider a wide range of alternatives for grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades,” said Phil Anderson, Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  “We welcome the opportunity to participate as a cooperating agency with the National Park Service and the other federal agencies interested in the conservation and recovery of grizzly bears in Washington.”

 

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