A grizzly bear at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle waits for a salmon to be tossed to him. The federal government on Tuesday decided to scrap plans to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

A grizzly bear at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle waits for a salmon to be tossed to him. The federal government on Tuesday decided to scrap plans to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Feds scrap plans to reintroduce grizzlies to North Cascades

An environmental group was disappointed by the decision but did not think it was the final word on the bears.

By Nicholas K. Geranios / Associated Press

The federal government on Tuesday decided to scrap plans to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem in Washington.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt told a meeting of community members in Omak that his agency will not conduct the environmental impact statement needed to move forward with the plan.

“The Trump Administration is committed to being a good neighbor, and the people who live and work in north central Washington have made their voices clear that they do not want grizzly bears,” Bernhardt said in a news release.

“Grizzly bears are not in danger of extinction, and Interior will continue to build on its conservation successes managing healthy grizzly bear populations across their existing range,” he said.

The decision was hailed by U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, who represents the region in Congress.

“Homeowners, farmers, ranchers, and small business owners in our rural communities were loud and clear: We do not want grizzly bears in North Central Washington,” Newhouse said. “I have long advocated that local voices must be heard by the federal government on this issue.”

The Department of the Interior began planning the environmental review process in 2015 under the Obama administration.

The recovery of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states is an amazing success story, the agency said. Most of the efforts have focused on six areas of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and eastern Washington.

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has been the primary focus of grizzly recovery efforts to date, and grizzly populations have increased to about 700 bears there since the animals were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975.

The environmental group Conservation Northwest was disappointed by the decision but did not think it was the final word on the bears.

“We are still confident they will be restored there,” spokesman Chase Gunnell said of the Cascades.

Gunnell said 80% of the people who provided public comments on the bears supported growing the population by bringing grizzlies to the backcountry in and around North Cascades National Park.

Gunnell said it was false that local residents overwhelmingly oppose reintroduction of the bears.

“This is not an issue that has just west-side support,” Gunnell said, referring to more populous and liberal Western Washington. “Public support is strong.”

Fewer than 10 grizzlies are thought to live across 9,800 square miles anchored by North Cascades National Park, Conservation Northwest said.

Given their isolation from other grizzly populations, the low number of bears, their very slow reproductive rate and other constraints, the North Cascades grizzly bear population is considered the most at-risk bear population in the United States, the environmental group said.

Grizzly bears have slowly regained territory and increased in numbers, but they still occupy only a small portion of their historical range.

An estimated 50,000 bears once roamed the contiguous U.S. Government-sponsored programs led to most being poisoned, shot and trapped by the 1930s.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Seattle mayor appeals recall decision to state Supreme Court

A petition seeks to recall Jenny Durkan over her role in the police response to protests.

Primary turnout in Washington state highest seen in decades

Secretary of State Kim Wyman said counties should prepare for a potential November turnout of up to 90%.

Seattle police chief to resign following department cuts

Carmen Best, the city’s first Black police chief, said her retirement will be effective Sept. 2.

‘Very concerning’ Postal Service changes could impact voting

The closing of facilities in Olympia, Everett and Pasco resulted in just 5.6% of expected cost savings.

Online event marks 50th anniversary of Whidbey orca’s capture

A campaign to return the orca to the Salish Sea began 25 years ago, spurred by the 1993 film “Free Willy.”

Hanford was a midwife to the atomic age

Washington is still struggling to correct the unexpected legacy of big messes and bad decisions.

Rampaging Portland protesters use mortar, 2 officers injured

Many in the city had hoped for calm after federal agents withdrew more than a week ago.

Court rules in lawsuit challenging voter guide statement

The state Supreme Court ruled against Chris Reykdal, who sued his reelection opponent for defamation.

State reports 11 cases of inflammatory pediatric syndrome

Six of the cases in Washington are children 9 or younger and five are in children 10 or older.

Rare white bald eagle treated for injury on San Juan Island

The unusual light coloring is caused by a genetic mutation that affects pigmentation of the feathers.

Inslee says schools in virus hot spots should stay closed

That includes Snohomish County. But the he backs reopening elementaries in counties with low infection rates.

Famed Seattle DJ Pat O’Day dies at 85

He is credited with helping the Seattle music scene rise to national prominence.