Grizzly bears could soon roam Washington forests in controversial plan

Mar 26, 2024, 1:04 PM | Updated: Mar 27, 2024, 11:35 am

Photo: Grizzly bear....

Grizzly bears could be reintroduced to Washington. (Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

(Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

Grizzly bears could soon find a home in Washington forests decades after they were hunted out of the area.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), grizzly bears haven’t been seen in the North Cascades since 1996. Therefore, they are considered an endangered species.

Last week, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildfire Service outlined a plan to reintroduce the bears to the North Cascades.

The plan states three to seven grizzly bears would be released into the North Cascades every year for around five to 10 years. The agencies want to foster a population of around 25 bears before switching to “adaptive management.”

Recovering species: Legislators consider removing gray wolves off endangered list in Wash.

WDFW says grizzly bears are vital for ecosystem

Grizzly bears are needed to restore the “biodiversity of the ecosystem to build ecological resilience and for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations of people,” the plan stated.

“Grizzly bears occupied the North Cascades for thousands of years as an essential part of the ecosystem, distributing native plant seeds and keeping other wildlife populations in balance,” the National Park Service wrote on its website.

Overall, the agencies want to recover grizzly bears to be taken off the endangered species list.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee showed his support for the plan on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Bears could threaten farms, lives, counters lawmaker

However, some lawmakers are pushing back on the plan, saying the bears will threaten farmland, livestock and human lives.

“This final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) reveals the Biden Administration is more intent on pushing policies about Central Washingtonians than for them,” Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-04) said in a statement last week. “The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service held public comment sessions in my district where the overwhelming majority of voices, which I heard firsthand, were adamantly opposed to the introduction of grizzly bears.”

Their voices have been shut out of this entire process. This administration’s blatant disregard for public opinion and their unwavering commitment to the whims of extreme environmentalists, many of whom don’t live anywhere near where the bears will be, is proven by the announcement of their ‘preferred alternative’ today,” he continued.

Newhouse is referring to the public comment session that took place in Okanogan last October.

Background: US congressman urges feds to reconsider grizzly bear proposal

However, Newhouse has been opposing the EIS since 2017, citing a lack of community input and feedback from local authorities.

A decision on the plan could come as soon as the end of next month.

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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