Press Release Apr 25, 2024

Conservation Groups Welcome the Return of the Grizzly to the North Cascades

"Today marks a triumph for park wildlife with grizzly bears returning home to North Cascades National Park. The decision to restore the grizzly bear is a testament to America’s courage to give one of our wildest animals the freedom to rebound." –Theresa Pierno, NPCA's President and CEO

WASHINGTON–The Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear coalition welcomes the long-awaited framework for grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascade Ecosystem with the final record of decision released today. The plan is the culmination of decades-long efforts to return this iconic species to their historic homelands.

“Today marks a triumph for park wildlife with grizzly bears returning home to North Cascades National Park. The decision to restore the grizzly bear is a testament to America’s courage to give one of our wildest animals the freedom to rebound,” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “For years, NPCA has worked to bring back the grizzly to the rugged alpine meadows they roamed for thousands of years. It’s proof that when we come together with a resounding call for conservation, we can do extraordinary things.”

The decision follows the National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s (USFWS) Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan and final environmental impact statement released last month.

“The Upper Skagit celebrates this decision for the great bear, the environment, and everyone who desires a return to a healthy Indigenous ecosystem,” said Scott Schuyler, policy representative for the Upper Skagit Tribe. “We urge the agencies to move forward and put paws on the ground so the recovery may begin.”

Federal agencies completed a thorough, multi-year process to evaluate options for safely restoring and managing grizzlies in this region where they once thrived. NPS and USFWS are moving forward with a “nonessential experimental population” designation that would allow the agencies to flexibly manage the bears within a designated area per section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act.

“The restoration plan is based on more than thirty years of research, learning, and hard work,” said Gordon Congdon, retired Wenatchee Orchardist. “The plan directly addresses the concerns of local people, private landowners, and local communities by providing flexible management tools that will reduce human-bear conflict and lead to the recovery of this magnificent species.”

Under this plan, a small number of bears will be translocated from a healthy source population into the North Cascades over several years until there is an established population of about 25 bears.

“This is the start of another great comeback story. These alpine gardeners of the North Cascades, once on the brink of extinction, are now poised to reclaim their historic home range. The plants, animals and people of this region will benefit from their return,” said Jasmine Minbashian, executive director of the Methow Valley Citizens Council.

Recognized as one of the most rugged mountain ranges in the country, the North Cascades spans over 9,500 square miles of mostly protected public lands in Washington State, standing as one of North America’s premier intact ecosystems with ideal habitat for grizzly bears.

Although grizzlies have been listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act since 1975, and the North Cascades were identified in 1997 as having sufficient quality habitat to support a healthy grizzly population, grizzly restoration plans stalled for decades.

When a similar review process began in 2015, it received overwhelming public approval, followed by the most recent review process in 2023.

For more information on the plan for North Cascades grizzly bear recovery from the Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear, visit https://www.northcascadesgrizzly.org/.

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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 www.npca.org.

About Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear: Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear is an independent partnership supporting the restoration of a healthy and functioning grizzly bear population in the North Cascades Ecosystem. More than two dozen Supporting Organizations and Businesses and over 2,500 Supporting Individuals have signed on as Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear. Steering Committee organizations for this collaborative effort include Conservation Northwest, National Parks Conservation Association, Woodland Park Zoo, Defenders of Wildlife, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, and the National Wildlife Federation.

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