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Feds scrap plans for grizzlies in North Cascades

by Nicholas K. Geranios
| July 9, 2020 1:00 AM

SPOKANE — 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, Wash., 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 state.

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.

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