Grizzly bears to be reintroduced to Washington state's North Cascades


The National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday a decision to “actively restore” grizzly bears to the North Cascades region of Washington state.

For thousands of years, grizzly bears roamed the region “as a key part of the ecosystem, distributing native plant seeds and keeping other wildlife populations in balance,” according to NPS.

The last time a grizzly bear was sighted in the region was in 1996, following a decline in population that resulted largely from people killing them.

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

The restoration of grizzly bears will take place through the “translocation of grizzly bears from other ecosystems in the Rocky Mountains or interior British Columbia.”

The goal will be to move three to seven grizzly bears each year for about five to 10 years, for a total of 25 bears initially. There is no set timeline for when this process will begin.

The decision also designated grizzly bears in this region as a nonessential experimental population under part of the Endangered Species Act. With the designation, agencies hope authorities and land managers will have more tools to handle the grizzly bears than they otherwise would.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will publish a final 10(j) rule in the coming days, which Brad Thompson, the agency’s state supervisor, said is “based on extensive community engagement and conversations about how the return of a grizzly bear population in the North Cascades will be actively managed to address concerns about human safety, property and livestock, and grizzly bear recovery.”

“It provides an expanded set of management tools in recognition that grizzly bear recovery in the North Cascades is dependent on community tolerance of grizzly bears,” Thompson added.

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