A plan to restore grizzly bear numbers in the federally overseen North Cascades National Park in northern Washington has been presented by the Biden administration. The plan offers three options: maintaining present management methods (the “no action” alternative) is the third option; the other two entail actively recovering populations of the vulnerable apex predator species. Over the next few decades, the government hopes to create a population of around 200 grizzly bears in the North Cascades habitat.
Once resident in the North Cascades, grizzly bears were integral to the environment for thousands of years. Unfortunately, due to intense hunting tactics in the 20th century, grizzly bears became almost extinct; the last documented sighting of one was in the North Cascades habitat in 1996.
The proposed plan calls for the release of up to seven grizzly bears per year into the North Cascades ecosystem during the next five to ten years by the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Park Service (NPS).
While some local communities and agricultural organizations oppose the proposal, environmental groups have welcomed it, citing the historical presence of grizzly bears in the area and their importance to the ecosystem. These groups have expressed concerns about impacts on livestock, public safety, economic development, and recreational opportunities.
The idea is out for public discussion, and the process will run until the middle of November.
There has been support and resistance to grizzly bear reintroduction in the North Cascades from a variety of groups since the Obama administration. The Biden administration started a study that resulted in the present plan after the Trump administration had previously decided that grizzly bears would not be reestablished in the environment due to litigation.