The National Park Service announced today it’s going to look into the feasibility of the “restoration” of grizzly bears in Washington’s North Cascades, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the toothsome critters will be reintroduced to that rumpled part of the state.
“This is the first stage of a multi-step process to help inform decisions about grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades ecosystem,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis in a press release. “The National Park Service and our partners in this effort haven’t made any decisions about the bear’s restoration at this time as federal law requires us to look at a range of options, including not restoring grizzlies to the area.”
One of the service’s partners just happens to be the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, and its director, Phil Anderson, said that his agency welcomed the chance to participate in the process.
That’s because it’s required in the Revised Codes of Washington, which also state that “Grizzly bears shall not be transplanted or introduced into the state. Only grizzly bears that are native to Washington state may be utilized by the department for management programs.”
This won’t stop the inevitable rumors, but I flat-out asked a WDFW spokesman if we’ll see any livestock trailers bearing grizzle bears pulling up Highway 20 anytime soon.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said.
Ursus horriblis is extremely rare in Washington; the most recent sighting was in the North Cascades in 2011 and Stevens County in 2012.
The announcement marks the start of drafting of an environmental impact statement, which is required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The process will take an estimated three years and look at the impacts of bear restoration and alternatives.