The dream of North Cascades grizzly bear restoration is alive and well

February 2018 update from the Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear

Here’s the most accurate reporting on the effort to restore grizzly bears in the North Cascades: federal recovery coordinators have slowed down the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. There is unlikely to be a Final EIS in 2018 as originally projected, but agency officials have recently stated that this is merely a hold, and the Department of the Interior has apparently not given explicit direction to halt the recovery process as of this time.

The slowdown of the EIS likely reflects uncertainty around agency budgets and the delay of the Trump Administration to appoint directors for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While this is frustrating, for those of us who have worked for decades to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades, the dream is alive, well and still worth fighting for — and we intend to do just that.

It’s vital that we maintain momentum for North Cascades grizzly bears. Fewer than ten remain in this transboundary ecosystem that sprawls across 9,800 square miles of rugged country anchored by North Cascades National Park. Mostly undeveloped backcountry, it’s an area larger than the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Isolated from other grizzly populations in Canada and the Northern Rockies by geography and development but with excellent bear habitat and abundant food sources still available, the North Cascades grizzly population needs restoration action to begin their comeback.

Bear mother and cub. Photo: Chris Morgan

Fortunately, the North Cascades is already managed as a designated Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone, and has been since 1997. We will continue to work with local communities to build understanding of bear-safe recreation, grizzly bear ecology, coexistence methods and cultural significance. The North Cascades offers a unique opportunity for grizzly bear restoration in our region as one of only six grizzly bear recovery zones in four states, and the only one outside the Rocky Mountains.

The Great Bear is an icon of our Northwest natural heritage and a bellwether of healthy wild ecosystems. The St’at’imc First Nation say that the grizzly bear taught the people how to eat; that if they lost the bear they would lose their identity. The Okanogan Nation Alliance, Yakama Nation, and other tribal nations have spoken loudly in support of restoration. So have communities including Whatcom County and more than two dozen businesses, organizations and regional leaders. Yet without action we are in danger of losing the bear – its physical presence and its symbolism. With your support, we don’t intend to let that happen.

The Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear will continue working to recover a healthy grizzly bear population in the North Cascades through science and community involvement because it will help keep the Northwest a natural, beautiful and sustainable place in which to live, work and play.

We’ll keep holding events and informational opportunities around our region, including during this year’s 50th anniversary of the establishment of North Cascades National Park. And as they are available, we’ll share more information on the EIS and ways to take action to support grizzly restoration. Recovery work will also continue in British Columbia through the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative and other efforts.

The North Cascades Ecosystem contains one of the largest areas of wild and protected land remaining in the lower 48 states. It’s important that we pass it on with all its native wildlife, including grizzly bears. Allowing the North Cascades grizzly bear population to wink out under our watch would be a tragic failure of stewardship of the wild heritage we hold in trust for future generations.

Onward,

The Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear

The Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear is an independent partnership supporting the restoration of a healthy and functioning grizzly bear population in the North Cascades Ecosystem. Supportive resolutions, testimonials, frequently asked questions, resources and helpful links, bear safety information, and more are available on our website.

More than two dozen Supporting Organizations and Businesses and over 2,000 Supporting Individuals have signed on as Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear. Steering Committee organizations for this collaborative effort include Conservation Northwest, National Parks Conservation Association, Woodland Park Zoo, Defenders of Wildlife, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, and the National Wildlife Federation.