Thoughts On Grizzly Bear Restoration (My Wife Amy’s)

As we lounged in bed last night, my wife surprised me with her thoughts on whether to bring grizzlies back to Washington’s North Cascades.

She is not in favor of it.

It was unexpected because, honestly, if you wanted to build the perfect candidate to be the front legs of the two people in the grizzly suit, dancing through downtown Seattle during the parade in support of the National Park Service’s and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s more active proposals to restore the bears, it would be Amy.

Let me tell you a little about the love of my life:

AMY UNDER THE WALLS OF ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER, IN THE COUNTRY SHE WAS BORN IN, GERMANY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

AMY UNDER THE WALLS OF ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER, IN THE COUNTRY SHE WAS BORN IN, GERMANY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Amy’s way smarter than I am, with a bachelor’s and a masters degree. She wisely discounts 95 percent of what I spout as utter bullsh*t and is teaching our sons to be just as skeptical.

She worked for several years for an organization that helped solicit private funds for national parks to make them even more parky and stuff. The job was a perfect fit for her.

She loves nature and all things in it and forever frets about ice caps and rain forests and whatnot. I cannot use the word chainsaw nor glance speculatively at trees and consider how many cords of wood and clear 2x8s they might yield without getting a sharp look.

Amy’s turned our postcard-sized lot into critter habitat, and she stops me from squishing spiders — including those giant horkin’ house spiders, the ones that look like baby tarantulas, that turn up in our room. She doesn’t even want me to translocate those guys to a different habitat — by which I mean, over the fence into a neighbor’s yard — because they’re house spiders, they’re the indoor kind of arachnid.

HIKES ALONG A TRAIL IN THE SOUTHERN OKANOGAN-WENATCHEE NATIONAL FOREST BETWEEN MT. RAINIER AND NACHES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

AMY AND THE BOYS HIKING IN THE CASCADES NEAR MT. RAINIER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

If a species is endangered or threatened, it’s on her radar. Yesterday she called to remind me not to buy (tasty, delicious) Doritos because the (dear, sweet) makers of my (all-time favorite) snack food use palm oil (to really give the chips that je ne sais quoi), and palm oil plantations are supplanting the habitat of orangutans, which our youngest son loves.

And to my provincial bumpkin, she is the über-banite, having lived in five of the planet’s metropolises — six if you count Pugetropolis.

In short, Amy is the worldly, highly educated, park-supporting, critter-sympathizing, NPR-listening, Greenpeace-giving, everything-justicing (including big scary spiders) goody two-shoes (and you know I mean that with the deepest of respect for your passions, my love) crystallization of the kind of person who you would think would be gung-ho for griz.

The one who would look at the Park and Fish and Wildlife Services’ four options and skip straight to Alternative 4, Expedited Restoration, and say “I’ll take this one!” and, hell, volunteer to go wrastle up some bears with our bear-wrastling federal wildlife biologist friend GC.

But not so.

Instead, she prefers Alternative 1, No Action, if they want to come back, they’re welcome, but if not, well, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, can you?

Eventually, my own thoughts on whether or not to turn grizzlies loose in the North Cascades will coalesce, hopefully before the comment period ends, but for now here’s Amy explaining her thinking:

I’m very much in support of protecting endangered animals and am also pro-wolf. However, I feel the situation with grizzlies is different.

1. Wolves were coming to Washington on their own because the habitat suited them. We paved the way for them and that was the right thing to do. However, grizzlies have not done the same. We would actively move them into a spot we thought would be great – they are not trying to establish themselves on their own.

2. In terms of creating division and anger, wolves have not been successful. People affected by their predation have often been resentful. Although I think that’s too bad, and that wolf reintroduction was right, why would we want to add another top predator to the mix, when there are already problems with top predator management?

3. Grizzlies are a much more dangerous predator to mix with dense human population. I know they’d be in introduced into remote North Cascades National Park, but compared with Alaska and Canada, we would be much more likely to have more human-grizzly interactions. Wolves don’t pose much harm to humans. Grizzlies do.

4. Grizzlies are doing well in other areas of North America. I’d feel differently if they were endangered everywhere in North America.

So, while I totally support helping endangered species, I feel the time is not right for grizzlies in Washington.

To read more about USFWS and NPS’s proposal, alternatives, where and when to learn more, and how to comment, go here.

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