We remain hopeful for North Cascades grizzly bear restoration despite further delay from the Department of the Interior in completing the Environmental Impact Statement.
February 2019 update from the Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear
A lot can happen in a year, and quite a bit did when it comes to grizzly bears in the North Cascades. Last March, following a lengthy lull from the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in releasing the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) outlining plans for restoration, we were surprised when former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke visited North Cascades National Park offices and announced his support for restoration, including completing the FEIS by the end of 2018.
After decades of work to restore a small population of grizzly bears to the backcountry of the North Cascades, this was a hopeful milestone. But while we appreciated the show of support, echoing the need to restore this endangered icon in a Seattle Times op-ed and Everett Herald editorial, we remained watchful that the Secretary and Trump Administration would follow-through on their promise.
After six more months of delay, leaders from our coalition sent a joint letter asking Secretary Zinke for an update on the status of the FEIS, urging the Department of the Interior and its agencies to see the process through given the enormous public support and investment in this conservation cause.
But 2018 ended with Secretary Zinke leaving his post amid alleged scandals and broken promises, failure to move the recovery of the only grizzly population in the contiguous United States outside the Rocky Mountains forward being just one of many. Our deep disappointment in this failure was chronicled in local news coverage and another Seattle Times op-ed.
Now, we’re back in a familiar place: uncertain about what comes next, but not without hope for the recovery of this iconic native species in the nearly 10,000 square miles of wild lands anchored by North Cascades National Park that is the North Cascades Ecosystem. While it’s frustrating and disappointing to watch the progress for this effort slow to a halt once again, we have not lost sight of that goal.
North Cascades grizzly bear restoration guided by science and local input is backed by expert biologists, indigenous nations, agency leaders, local and national conservation groups and more than 120,000 public comments submitted on the Draft EIS. With 80 percent of Washington voters surveyed in favor of grizzly recovery, there is strong public support for the Interior Department to complete this process.
The North Cascades’ abundant food sources and rugged country is perfect habitat for grizzlies, and new reports proving the historical presence of grizzlies and this ecosystem’s continued viability as quality bear habitat even in the face of climate change provide further incentives to move restoration forward.
While it remains to be seen what will happen next with the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Restoration Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) still languishing at the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, we’re not letting our momentum wane. Through public outreach and informational opportunities, we’ll continue to ramp up public support and raise awareness around coexisting with grizzlies in the North Cascades.
Our chance to restore an icon of our Northwest natural heritage remains alive and well, but to keep that chance from slipping away, we need the continued strength of your support while we await movement under new leadership at the Department of the Interior. In the meantime, please remain engaged as we provide opportunities to take action and bring a healthy population of grizzly bears back to the North Cascades.
For a wild future,
The Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear