Majority of commentators favor reintroduction of grizzlies to North Cascades

A majority of people and organizations who commented on an environmental impact statement studying the restoration of grizzly bears in the North Cascades favor the return of the bear.

The National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the report last week, providing an analysis of about 3,000 public comments received during the first phase of developing the environmental impact statement. The U.S. Forest Service and state Department of Fish and Wildlife are cooperating agencies in the process.

The summary of the comments will be used to identify key issues while developing a range of alternatives.

Completing the statement will be a three-year process that establishes options that could be taken to restore grizzly bears to the ecosystem, a 9,800 square-mile area of largely federal lands in northcentral Washington.

Of all the comments, 1,474 were made in support of restoring grizzly bears to the region, while 285 were opposed.

Among the comments in support, one person wrote, “A ‘No Action’ alternative will not recover bear as it has not worked for the past 40 years.”

A commentator from Tacoma wrote: “Grizzly bears are an icon that represent healthy wilderness ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. To sustain an integral part of what makes our country unique and wonderful, we must sustain umbrella species such as the grizzly bear. … Do the right think for the long term, my granddaughter deserves it.”

Among those comments opposing reintroduction, one person wrote: “Leave the grizzly bears where they are at, don’t bring the bears here.”

A comment by one Olympia resident said: “I strongly object to any reintroduction of grizzly bears in area of the Northwest. … This effort by you is no different (than) the relocation of the wolf fiasco. Clearly, you cannot have a ‘balance of nature’ and have man using the same areas and resources these dangerous predators roam in.”

A commentator from Tacoma supporting taking no action wrote: “I would like to see it evolve naturally. Grizzlies will come in if the habitat will supply what it needs. … I would be against introducing or forcing them in. I feel the same way about the wolves.”

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

As part of the first phase, the two federal agencies had six open houses in February and March that drew almost 500 people, during which staff members shared information and sought public comment on the range of issues related to grizzly bears and the North Cascades.

Comments were also submitted by mail, online and in person.

A draft statement containing proposed alternatives is expected to be released in summer 2016 with another public comment period to follow.