April 15, 2017 — Cascade Grizzly bears use to be free in the Cascades in Washington but only a few have been seen lately.
Secretary Zinke wants to restore the population and on March 23, 2018 released his support in restoration of the Cascade Grizzly.
They’re seeking input over the next several weeks on what steps they should take to restore grizzly bears to their natural range.
The support comes as the federal government is deciding whether to lift protections for more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park – where the animals staged an impressive comeback, under the watchful eye of researchers with the federal government
In Washington State, the grizzly plan has stoked intense debate as federal officials sought input in 2015 as it developed the draft environmental impact statement released late in the week.
Cascade Grizzly lovers say the iconic, gentle creatures – a symbol of free wilderness – should be protected. They say the population won’t recover without help and their protection would increase the biodiversity of the ecosystem.
“Saving the Cascade Grizzly and relocating them to the Cascades will help restore our natural wilderness,” said Debbie Henderson of the Seattle T-Shirt firm, one of several supporters that cheered the plan’s release. She noted that people need to get behind this, because every behind matters “you’re behind, the supports behind and especially the Grizzlies behind”
Some say the Cascade Grizzly should recover naturally, while others worry about increased dangers to people who recreate, livestock and opposed the move over potential impacts to communities, ranchers, and farmers.
One state lawmaker has disagreed with moving grizzly bears into Washington, telling the federal agencies in 2015 that the idea contradicts state law stating the bears “shall not be transplanted or introduced into the state.”
Experts note that grizzly bears tend to avoid areas of human activity, and the animals would be relocated in remote areas, away from grazing allotments. They’ll be radio-collared and monitored. Grizzly bears would likely come from areas in Canada or Montana.
The bears in Washington are at risk of extinction, and recovering them would enhance the population’s survival, restore the animal as part of the area’s cultural heritage and provide people the chance to experience the animals in their native habitat, federal officials say.
Without intervention, the Cascade Grizzly Bear could disappear. Individual bears are increasingly isolated and have limited opportunity to breed, the agencies said.
An estimated 50,000 Grizzlies once roamed much of North America. Most were killed off by hunters in the 19th and early 20th centuries and they now occupy only about 2 percent of their original range across the Lower 48 states.
They were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. In the Cascades, the population is estimated to be fewer than 20 animals, according to Fish and Wildlife Service.
The most recent confirmed sighting of a bear was in 1996 in the U.S. portion of the Cascades ecosystem. A bear was confirmed in Canada within 20 miles of the U.S. within the last five years.
The Cascades ecosystem offers some of the best habitat to recover the animals, and a federal 1997 plan designated the area as one of five grizzly bear recovery zones. The others are in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.