Park Service to study idea of putting grizzly bears in Washington state
WASHINGTON — The National Park Service announced Thursday it is starting a three-year study whether grizzly bears should be restored to the North Cascades in Washington state.
“This is the first stage of a multi-step process to help inform decisions about grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades ecosystem,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a news release.
He cautioned that, “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 process begins this week with the agency requesting quotes from contractors to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) this fall.
Jarvis said the statement will be developed in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which administers the Endangered Species Act.
“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.”
FWS listed the grizzly bear as a threatened species in the lower 48 United States in 1975. The species was listed as endangered by the state of Washington in 1980. A grizzly bear recovery plan was written in 1982 and revised in 1993. Its chapter on the North Cascades ecosystem was added in 1997 and includes a call for an EIS.
The NPS said 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 Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.