U.S. resumes study of restoring grizzlies to Washington state national park

Environmental groups on Thursday welcomed the Biden administration’s decision to resume research on whether grizzly bears should be returned to Washington state’s remote North Cascade ecosystem.

The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they would jointly prepare an environmental impact statement to restore the endangered bear to North Falls.

Hunters killed the bears from the ecosystem long ago, the agencies said, and a recovery there will aid the full recovery of the endangered animals in the Northwest.

“This reverses the Trump administration’s hasty termination of these programs,” said Andrea Zaccardi of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Without help, grizzlies are likely to disappear from the Pacific Northwest.”

The agencies began research in 2015 to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades through a trapping and relocation process. But in 2020, the Trump administration terminated the process without explanation. The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in federal court in the District of Columbia challenging the termination of the contract.

One of the largest wild areas in the 48 US states, the North Cascades cover more than 9,500 square miles (24,605 ​​square kilometers) centered on the North Cascades National Park. It also includes large swaths of the surrounding National Forest.

Other conservation groups also praised the decision.

“North Falls has long lacked an integral part of its unique ecosystem,” said Catherine Karagi of Wildlife Conservationists. “Returning to the Grizzlies will finally make this incredible wilderness whole again.”

The environmental impact reporting process will include an opportunity for public comment.

Gordon Condon, a retired fruit grower near Wenatchee, Washington, said: “We are cautiously optimistic that this process will lead to a decision on how to successfully restore grizzlies to the North Cascade Mountains.”

Conservation groups say the North Cascade ecosystem is one of only two grizzly bear recovery areas with no identified bear population, and it is unlikely to be freed from natural bear migration due to its relative distance and isolation from other areas. Re-breed.

“We know how to successfully relocate bears to new places, and we know how to live with them safely,” said the director, who retired in 2016 after 35 years as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly recovery coordinator and continues to advocate for Grizzlies recover.

Under the proposal, the two agencies would capture grizzly bears in British Columbia or the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem in the Rocky Mountains. For about 5 to 10 years, about 3 to 7 grizzly bears are released to North Falls each year.

Nicholas K. Geranios, Associated Press

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