March 9, 2017

How you can help bring grizzly bears back to the North Cascades.

You probably don’t know it, but you have the power to fix a problem that has persisted for decades. Since 1975, concerted efforts have been taken by organizations and agencies like the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, to restore the grizzly bear population in the lower 48 that was once estimated to exceed 50,000 individuals. After decades of recovery efforts for other grizzly bear populations like the one in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, focus is turning towards recovering the quickly disappearing North Cascades Ecosystem (NCE) grizzly bear population. It’s just in the nick of time, too. Scientists estimate only 10 grizzly bears remain. Here’s the rub: without you telling the National Park Service (the Service) to take swift action, grizzly bears in the Pacific Northwest will go extinct.

How did they disappear?

The NCE is 6.3 million acres of expansive wilderness, untouched by most people due to its rugged terrain and designated wilderness and roadless areas. Considering its wild state, we know that grizzly bears have not been displaced because we invaded their terrain. Put simply, they are on the brink of extinction because we allowed unchecked trapping and hunting of the species. The last known grizzly bear hunted in the NCE was shot and killed in 1967. Since then, we’ve waited over four decades to see if the remaining bears could naturally re-establish themselves to sustainable levels. Given their excruciatingly slow reproductive rate and isolation from populations in the West and Canada, it’s no surprise that they need our help to fix the problem we created.

What you can do about it Right Now

The mistakes of the past are now our opportunity to shine in the present. You can act now to bring grizzlies back from the comfort of your keyboard. The Service has proposed four recovery strategies and they need you to tell them which one to use. You read that correctly, you have the power to tell them how to move forward. Visit the Service’s website to enter your comment in support of Incremental Restoration (or Alternative C), with a small amendment. Read on to learn more about what that means.

A Conservation Perspective

Defenders will submit comments in favor of one of the four proposed strategies— “Incremental Restoration,” also referred to as “Alternative C,” because it strikes the best balance between the needs of people and bears. The basics of Incremental Restoration allow the Service to ‘augment’ (add to) the current population by transporting a founding population of 25 grizzly bears to the NCE. Augmentation would happen slowly, over a 10-year period, and bears would only be chosen from healthy populations that already thrive on a diet of 70-85% vegetation like berries, grasses, and roots. This is a great start, but a population of 25 bears is still very small and vulnerable to extinction.  The Service would not meet its overall goal of 200 bears for another 60-100 years. Even if they started tomorrow, grizzly bears may not recover until 2117! To ensure the population grows and does not suffer any setbacks, we propose that the Service strengthen the Incremental Restoration plan by allowing wildlife managers to release additional grizzly bears, if needed, at the standard rate of 5-7 per year after the founding population is established. You can use this exact language when submitting your comment.

Augmentation Works! Just Ask Grizzlies in Montana!

Chris Morgan, acclaimed documentary filmmaker and ecologist, just released a short film entitled Time for the Grizzly? that documents the science behind the on-going augmentation of grizzlies to the Cabinet mountains. Because of augmentation, “data indicate(s) the Cabinet Mountains population has increased by 2–4 fold” (Kasworm 2016). But similar to the North Cascades, Morgan discovered that some people in the community sharply opposed grizzly recovery out of fear of the unknown. Augmentation became possible after local outreach efforts around grizzly bears and how people can co-exist with them.

Watch Jeff Bridges talk about the North Cascades grizzly hear and why he hopes the bear abides with Chris Morgan.

Showing support for grizzly bear recovery, by submitting your public comment in favor of augmentation to the NCE, helps counter fear-based opposition and is extremely important in moving recovery forward.

You’ve got this!

Ultimately, this is a test of our values. We don’t wake up every day with an opportunity to put our values into practice, but this is that day! Do we value biodiversity, intact ecosystems, and making space for a species to coexist across our shared landscape? Most importantly, can we take time to practice our values? If you answered ‘yes,’ I now pass the baton to you. You have until March 14th now have until April 28th 11:59 PM PST to get all your friends and family to submit a comment in favor of Incremental Restoration (or Alternative C), with the amendment, to ensure the National Park Service knows the public supports a robust augmentation action. If you don’t, who will?

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