A purely political decision ignores science, Park Service recommendations, and overwhelming public support
SEATTLE – The Department of the Interior today announced it will not be restoring a population of endangered grizzly bears in the North Cascades.
Statement by Rob Smith, Northwest Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association:
“Grizzlies have been an integral part of the North Cascades ecosystem for 20,000 years but are now one of the most threatened populations in North America. This purely political decision ignores science, Park Service recommendations and overwhelming public support and instead threatens the very survival of one of the nation’s most famous wild creatures.
“This enormously disappointing decision is the latest flip-flop away from conservation by this administration, which under Secretary Ryan Zinke supported grizzly recovery efforts. We will continue to work with community members to advocate for the reintroduction of grizzly bears.”
In 2014, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began an environmental impact statement planning process on restoring a healthy grizzly bear population within the North Cascades ecosystem.
Grizzly bears play a vital environmental role in North Cascades National Park and the broader ecosystem, are significant in local Native American and First Nations’ cultures, and contribute to the richness of the Pacific Northwest’s natural heritage. Unfortunately, there have been no verified grizzly bear sightings in Washington’s North Cascades in several years, despite the excellent habitat in and around the park.
The Trump administration’s previous Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, supported the reintroduction of grizzly bears into the North Cascades, one of the few conservation initiatives the Trump administration supported. Today, Zinke’s replacement, Sec. of the Interior David Bernhardt put a halt on grizzly restoration despite broad community support for the effort.
The public outreach over reintroducing grizzly bears into the North Cascades has been extensive and has been met with large public support, with 80% of Washington voters supportive of the issue. The National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the U.S. Forest Service, conducted six public scoping meetings in March 2015, nine public meetings, two webinars, and at least 70 additional information briefings/meetings throughout the process with tribes, local municipalities, counties, district Congressional staff, and other stakeholders and interest groups.
Mount Vernon resident Brenda Cunningham said: "Washingtonians have waited for far too long to see the grizzly return to the North Cascades. Despite the secretary’s comments, communities here largely approve of recovery, despite the Trump Administration’s meddling with the science.”
Methow Valley Citizens Council executive director Jasmine Minbashian said: “Congressman Newhouse is ignoring a large majority of his constituents who support grizzly bear recovery many of whom who live in the heart of the proposed recovery area. He can do better than this. The proposed restoration plan is a modest plan that would give grizzly bears a chance at survival in their native home – the North Cascades.”