Wildlife Advocates Applaud Restart of Process to Potentially Return Grizzly Bears to North Cascades 

Conservation groups and other wildlife advocates applaud the Biden administration’s announcement today that it is restarting the process required to potentially return grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem (NCE)


Conservation groups and other wildlife advocates applaud the Biden administration’s announcement today that it is restarting the process required to potentially return grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem (NCE)- a large network of mostly protected public lands that spans from northwest Washington State into British Columbia and includes North Cascades National Park. 

The environmental impact statement process will include an opportunity for public input on a range of strategies designed to restore grizzlies. This revival of a multi-year effort is backed by overwhelming public approval. When a similar process began in 2015,  it received more than 159,000 public comments supporting it. 

The North Cascades Ecosystem is one of only two grizzly recovery areas without an established population of bears, and due to its relative distance and isolation from other zones, it would not likely be repopulated from natural bear migration.  

Scott Schuyler, Policy Representative for the Upper Skagit Tribe, whose territory lies within the recovery zone, urges people to accept that grizzlies belong in the North Cascades.  

“The Upper Skagit people coexisted with grizzly bears in the region for nearly 10,000 years pre-contact. The grizzly has profound cultural significance and its restoration will enrich our ancestral lands and help restore the foundations of our cultural practices.  We thank Secretary Haaland for leading this effort and look forward to welcoming grizzlies back home.” 

The Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear, a coalition of local and national groups in support of grizzly recovery, also applaud the news.  

“We’re cautiously optimistic that this process will lead to a decision on how to successfully restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades through sound science and robust public involvement,” said Gordon Congdon, retired Wenatchee orchardist and former Executive Director of the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust. “There’s a lot of interest from folks all over the state and the country because the grizzly bear is such an important, iconic and charismatic animal – and it’s the only native large mammal absent from our wildlands.”  

“The grizzly bear is a critical part of the ecological and cultural fabric of the North Cascades. They belong here. Without them our wild areas are diminished, less diverse and sanitized. The narrative about Cascades grizzly bear recovery will take decades to unfold. But with science, education and a little human tolerance it can be one of the greatest conservation success stories of ours and future generations,” said Joe Scott, international program director for Conservation Northwest.  

“For far too long the North Cascades have been missing an integral part of their unique ecosystem,” said Kathleen Callaghy, Northwest representative with Defenders of Wildlife. “Returning the grizzlies will finally make this incredible wilderness whole again. What’s more, it is clear that the people of Washington overwhelmingly want this to happen. We are ecstatic this process is resuming and will be strongly advocating for its successful conclusion.” 

“We know how to move bears successfully and we know how to live with them safely,” said Chris Servheen, former Chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bear Expert Group for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Federal and state agencies have worked for decades to lay a sound scientific and social foundation for reestablishing grizzly bears in the NCE, which has some of the most productive grizzly (brown) bear habitat in the world.” 

“Scientific research and habitat analyses have shown that the North Cascades grizzly bear population is not recoverable without moving some animals from other areas into the ecosystem,” Bill Gaines, founder of Conservation Science Institute and retired Okanogan-Wenatchee District biologist from the U.S. Forest Service.  

“Bottom line is that even with a recovered North Cascades grizzly bear population these consummate icons of wild habitats will have been driven out of 97 percent of their former range in the contiguous US through persecution, habitat destruction and sheer short-sightedness. We now have a rare opportunity to redress these wrongs and bestow a huge conservation legacy to our children,” said Rob Smith, Northwest Director with the National Parks Conservation Association.      



Andrea Wolf-Buck, Conservation Northwest, 206-970-1430, andrea@conservationnw.org  

Hawk Hammer, Defenders of Wildlife 202-772-0295, Hhammer@defenders.org 

Liam Kelly, National Parks Conservation Association, 213-814-8666, lkelly@npca.org  

About Defenders of Wildlife: 
Defenders of Wildlife is celebrating 75 years of protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders. 

About Conservation Northwest:
“Keeping the Northwest wild” since 1989, Conservation Northwest is a regional non-profit organization that protects, connects and restores wildlands and wildlife from the Washington Coast to the British Columbia Rockies. Staff operates in local communities and rural areas around Washington and into southern B.C., using dialogue to find common ground and collaborative solutions for challenging issues including habitat corridors, wilderness conservation, forest restoration and endangered species recovery. 

About National Parks Conservation Association: 
With more than 1.6 million members and supporters beside us, we are the voice of America’s national parks, working to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for present and future generations. We celebrate the parks — and work tirelessly to defend them — whether on the ground, in the courtroom or on Capitol Hill. 

About Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear:
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 2,500 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. 

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