North Cascades Grizzly Restoration Planning To Push Ahead Again

UPDATED 1:07 p.m. Friday, March 23, 2018

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke told reporters this morning that the federal review of options to restore grizzlies in Washington’s North Cascades will push forward again.

THE NORTH CASCADES RISE OVER A SHARP TURN ON HIGHWAY 20. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Appearing at North Cascades National Park Complex headquarters in Sedro-Woolley, Zinke’s statements came after an apparent pause this past winter of the environmental review of four options for bringing the bears back to this mountainous country.

He said the process should wrap up this year — a Department of Interior press release says by late summer — and that he feels grizzlies can be returned to the recovery region.

“I’m in support of the great bear,” Zinke said in televised comments. “I’m also supportive of doing it right. This is not reintroduction of a rabbit. This is reintroduction of a grizzly, and when done right by professional management, the grizzly can return harmony to the ecosystem and the grizzly can be a great example of how we do it right. Doing it wrong can adversely affect visitor experience and it can also adversely our ability to manage the land.”

Bear advocates were pleased by the news, and it’s likely that local tribes are happy as well, as the Tulalips have supported restoration.

However, national, state cattlemen’s and public-lands ranching associations expressed disappointment.

The four options that the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put out for comment in January 2017 ranged from no action — allow them to return themselves from southern British Columbia — to expedited reintroduction and a goal of 200 animals between the Canadian border and Snoqualmie Pass.

Zinke said that, not to prejudge the outcome of the review, but “the winds are favorable.”

WDFW participated in coming up with the EIS, but doesn’t have a position on any, a spokesman said.

It’s probable that there are no actual grizzlies in the North Cascades at present, or only one or two.

The secretary appeared for about 12 minutes and spoke for nine of them. He also spoke about his push to reorganize federal natural resource agencies.

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