Grizzly bears may not be returning to the North Cascades any time soon after all — at least through federal efforts.
Plans to restore the big bruins in the mountainous region of Washington are “indefinitely on hold” after national park service officials were “asked to stop work on its environmental impact statement by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s office.”
The story was broken by the latter paper and it follows on a long-term push to consider restoring grizzlies in their former habitat.
The EIS, which went out last January for comment, garnered 127,000 responses from the public. Alternatives ranged from no action to fast-tracking the relocation of bears to build a self-sustaining population of 200 in the region north of I-90.
“When residents and stakeholders express opposition to proposals to reintroduce grizzly bears in the North Cascades Ecosystem, the federal government must listen,” Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-4), who represents the northeastern side of the region, recently told the Herald.
The news was not taken well by Conservation Northwest, which has strongly supported the effort.
“We are extremely disappointed that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Trump Administration are abandoning North Cascades grizzly bears, siding with the local extinction of this iconic native species over the strong majority of Washingtonians who support their recovery,” said Chase Gunnell, the Seattle-based organization’s communications director. “Equally frustrating is that the many years of science and public education and significant taxpayer dollars that have gone into grizzly bear recovery in our region are not being taken seriously by this administration.”
According to the reports, the move also “stalls discussions” with wildlife managers on the other side of the international border.
Grizzly populations in southern British Columbia are said to be in a contracting rather than expanding phase, making it reportedly less likely for them to roam into Washington on their own like wolves. This morning the provincial government banned hunting the bears, a “major policy shift.”