Make your voice heard for grizzly reintroduction in the North Cascades

Grizzly in snowy lodgepole forest
Public comments are now open on the latest federal proposal to reintroduce grizzly bears to their historic range in the North Cascades Ecosystem of Washington state.

UPDATE (11/15): The recent public comment period on North Cascades grizzly reintroduction and experimental population designation is now over, but stay tuned for future updates on the proposals’ progress and opportunities to make your voice heard. Click here to read Vital Ground’s comments submitted during the recent window.

Public comment now open on two federal proposals

By Kayla Heinze, Communications Specialist

The borders of “grizzly country” have never been set in stone. Once these large mammals covered nearly the entire western portion of North America, stretching from northern Mexico up to the Arctic and from the Pacific Coast eastward across the Great Plains. Since their crossing of the Bering land bridge some 50,000 years ago, brown bears have had a vast and significant presence on this landscape. When European settlers pushed west and brought with them development, overhunting, and fears about predation, the range of these bears was significantly reduced and degraded. 

Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones map
The Selway-Bitterroot and North Cascades grizzly bear recovery zones remain without a documented resident grizzly population.

Today we are living alongside these remarkable bears through another shift. Grizzlies in the lower 48 states remain only in islands of refuge, though their populations in four designated recovery zones across the Northern Rockies are slowly growing and expanding. Now, plans to bring them back to a fifth recovery area have taken another step forward.

As we covered on the blog last year, efforts are once again being made by the National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to explore reintroducing grizzlies to the North Cascades of Washington. This ecosystem, with over 9,000 square miles of quality wilderness habitat, is also a USFWS-designated recovery zone for the species but has had no resident population for at least a quarter century. 

Along with other wildlife protection and conservation groups, Vital Ground is supportive of efforts to bring grizzlies back to their historic home in the mountains of northern Washington. We have submitted comment on past drafts of the EIS, and now the agencies are offering two further opportunities for public comment on this proposal—meaning you can join us and make your voice heard on behalf of wildlife.

In late September, the NPS and USFWS announced their request for comments on the latest draft Environment Impact Statement (EIS) and also on the proposed rule to designate the reintroduced bears as a 10(j) experimental population, which would influence what conflict-prevention measures could be taken. The public has 45 days to weigh in on these two proposals. The draft EIS outlines multiple potential courses of action or no action, and the agencies say they want public input on how best to manage reintroduction. 

Bringing bears home 

Haze hangs beneath the jagged ridges of Washington's North Cascades
With over 9,000 square miles of quality habitat, the North Cascades Ecosystem is one of six designated recovery zones for grizzly bears.

“Grizzlies belong in the North Cascades,” we wrote last year. “With fires destroying habitat, development expanding into rural areas, and rising temperatures causing food shortages, grizzlies need as many footholds as they can get to flourish in an uncertain future.”

And while there is understandable apprehension about living alongside such powerful creatures, local communities have been preparing for years for the possibility of grizzlies being on the landscape once again. Vital Ground and our many coexistence partners are spreading tools and awareness across the shifting boundaries of grizzly country so adaptation can be a privilege rather than a burden. 

Here at Vital Ground, we believe the natural heritage of this region is an immense and unmeasurable gift. Though much of the continent’s recent history has been marked by loss of wildlife, we can still shift the tide toward a future of abundance. Making your voice heard on behalf of grizzlies in the North Cascades is an important step in the ongoing recovery process and in opening our hearts to all the wonder wildlife brings to our shared landscapes.

Learn more and submit your comment today…

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