National Park Service to begin developing North Cascades grizzly bear plan

The National Park Service has begun the process of developing an environmental impact statement that studies options for the future of the grizzly bear in the North Cascades.

This is the first of a multi-step, multi-year process to help develop decisions about grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades.

No decisions about the restoration of grizzlies have been made at this time, but the range of options that will eventually be identified in the statement includes not restoring grizzlies to the area.

The impact statement process started Aug. 21 with the service seeking quotes from contractors to manage development of the impact statement. Officials expect to award the contract this fall. A timeline for public participation – including public meetings – will be set after the contract is in place.

The statement will be developed over the next three years in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the Endangered Species Act. Other partners in the process include the U.S. Forest Service and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The grizzly bear was listed by the Fish and Wildlife Service as a threatened species in the lower 48 United States in 1975. The species was listed as endangered by the state in 1980.

A grizzly bear recovery plan was written in 1982 and revised in 1993. A chapter on the North Cascades ecosystem was added in 1997.

The North Cascades ecosystem covers 9,800 square miles in the United States and 3,800 square miles in British Columbia. The last confirmed grizzly sighting in the area was in 2010, when a hiker photographed a near inside North Cascades National Park.