Federal officials are asking the public to weigh in on a proposal to bring grizzly bears back to the North Cascades, on a broad swath of public land that stretches from Whatcom County to Wenatchee.
The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have proposed four alternative plans, ranging from doing nothing to capturing bears elsewhere and transporting them here. Grizzly bears likely would come from northwestern Montana or south-central British Columbia.
They would be moved to 9,800 square miles of mostly public land in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
Federal officials say the grizzly bears would be relocated in remote areas, and they also would be radio-collared and monitored. They would be brought back gradually – 10 bears over a 2-year period, according to one plan – with the goal of establishing a population of 200.
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A survey released in June showed broad support for restoring the population here, though farmers and ranchers elsewhere worry about bringing back the potential predators.
Those interested can learn more at an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the Oxford Suites, 4051 Meridian St. in Bellingham, near East Bakerview Road. Federal officials won’t take public testimony but will be on hand to discuss the plan and answer questions; attendees can also submit written comments at the meeting.
For those who can’t make the open house, there will be a webinar from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 26. To register, go to parkplanning.nps.gov/grizzlydeis and click on the “Meeting Notices” link.
And those interested still can submit written comments by March 14 to the Superintendent’s Office, North Cascades National Park Service Complex, 810 State Route 20, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284. Or submit them online at parkplanning.nps.gov/grizzlydeis. Select “Open for Comment” and then “Draft EIS.”
Grizzly bears were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. In the North Cascades, the population is estimated to be fewer than 20, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The most recent confirmed sighting of a grizzly here was in 1996 in the U.S. portion of the North Cascades. A bear, however, was confirmed in British Columbia within 20 miles of the U.S. border.
The size of the area being considered to relocate grizzly bears was corrected Feb. 21.