The Trump administration today announced its decision to terminate the public process regarding re-introducing grizzly bears back into the North Cascades Ecosystem of Washington state. This decision was reported by U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt despite public input and science, denying grizzlies access to their historic range.
Robb Krehbiel, Northwest Representative for Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:
“The Trump administration has broken its promise to reintroduce North Cascades grizzly bears despite ample public support. Former Interior Secretary Zinke, one of President Trump’s own appointees, committed to return grizzlies to the North Cascades, yet the administration continues to let politics get in the way. We will continue to fight for the restoration of this landscape and for grizzlies to return to their historic range. The data is clear: these bears belong here.”
• In March 2018, then-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke committed to finalizing a plan to return grizzlies to the North Cascades Ecosystem before the end of the summer. That announcement restarted the EIS process, allowing agencies to review the more than 126,000 EIS public comments received in 2017. Zinke announced that a record of decision would be reached by the end of 2018, but instead he issued a “stop work” order months later, providing no plan to continue the process.
• In June 2019, the public comment period for the EIS was reopened, extending the deadline until October 2019. Defenders of Wildlife and partners generated more than 133,000 comments in support of grizzly reintroduction.
• More than 80% of Washington voters support bringing grizzlies back to the North Cascades, according to a 2016 poll.
• The North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone, anchored by North Cascades National Park, was designated by federal scientists in 1997, when it was determined that the region has sufficient quality habitat to support a sizeable grizzly population. It is the only grizzly bear recovery area on the West Coast of the contiguous United States.
• Biologists estimate there are fewer than 10 grizzly bears remaining in the North Cascades today, making it the most at-risk bear population in North America. The last verified grizzly sighting in Washington’s Cascades was in 1996, with more recent documentations occurring in the British Columbia portion of the ecosystem.
• The main threat to grizzly bears in this recovery zone is a small population size and isolation from other grizzly populations in central British Columbia and the Rocky Mountains. Successful restoration of North Cascades grizzly bears would be a historic victory, indicating restoration of all wildlife populations that were present in the region, prior to the turn of the 19th century.