Press Release Mar 21, 2024

National Park Service Identifies ‘Preferred Alternative’ to Restore Grizzly Bears to the North Cascades

"The planned return of the grizzly bear to North Cascades National Park is a symbol of the power of perseverance” -- NPCA President and CEO Theresa Pierno 

SEATTLE – The Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear coalition celebrates today as federal agencies announced their preference to bring grizzly bears back to the North Cascades Ecosystem.

The National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released the final environmental impact statement and grizzly bear reintroduction plan. Although a record of decision has yet to be signed, the agencies’ preferred alternative would restore grizzlies to their historic homelands, where they are functionally extinct. The agencies recommend a 10(j) rule that would give wildlife managers additional flexibility under the Endangered Species Act to responsibly manage bears.

“Today we celebrate our national parks as places where wildlife thrives and ecosystems are made whole,” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “For years, NPCA has worked tirelessly to bring grizzlies back to their historic homeland. The planned return of the grizzly bear to North Cascades National Park is a symbol of the power of perseverance.”

“After years of advocacy the Upper Skagit Tribe looks forward to the day the great bear returns to the rugged North Cascades which our people previously shared with grizzlies for thousands of years,” said Scott Schuyler, policy representative for the Upper Skagit Tribe, whose territory lies within the recovery zone. “We thank leaders at the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Department of Interior for their intention to restore a cultural icon in the North Cascades.”

The North Cascades Ecosystem holds one of the most remote and rugged mountain ranges in the country and is one of only two grizzly bear recovery zones without an established population. The area is one of North America’s premier intact ecosystems and features optimal habitat for grizzlies. However, the last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear was in 1996. Habitat fragmentation and the low numbers of grizzlies in nearby populations make it highly unlikely that grizzlies would naturally recover in this area.

Under the preferred alternative, agency biologists would translocate a few bears from healthy source populations into the North Cascades over several years until an initial population of 25 is reached.

“The Snoqualmie Tribe is excited to hear this news, and to know that this hard-fought effort to bring home grizzlies is close to becoming a reality,” said Snoqualmie Indian Tribe Tribal Chairman Robert M. de los Angeles. “This is a critical moment in history, with governments, organizations, and individuals working together to welcome grizzlies back after human action removed them from their home. Snoqualmie thanks the leadership of our congressional leaders, the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of Interior for their persistent work and advocacy.”

For years, advocates in Washington state and beyond have weighed in supporting efforts to help the declining population of grizzlies and reintroduce bears to their historic habitat. A recent poll shows that 85% of Americans support grizzly restoration in the North Cascades. The possible designation of the North Cascades grizzlies as an “experimental population” has helped the effort gain support, as people have been assured that the bears will be gradually reintroduced and carefully managed.

“The agencies have shown that they are listening to local communities like ours by including necessary management flexibility for a successful reintroduction effort in the long run,” said Jasmine Minbashian, executive director of Methow Valley Citizens Council. “In eastern Washington, human-bear coexistence initiatives are already in progress. With the right resources focused on bear-smart infrastructure and education, rural communities can be a proud partner in the triumphant return of our majestic grizzly bears.”

There is a legally mandated 30-day waiting period before a final Record of Decision . Visit for more information on the plan for North Cascades grizzly bear recovery from the Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear.

# # #

About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit

Read more from NPCA