Conservation Northwest said in a press release that it welcomes a reopened comment period on the environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposal to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades – “if it leads to the completion of the EIS and concrete actions to recover the iconic grizzly bear.”
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Park Service announced recently that they are reopening the public comment period on the Draft North Cascades Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan/ Draft EIS for 90 days, through Oct. 24.
The action revives an on-and-off process that began in 2014 under the Obama administration, to consider if and how grizzlies should be reintroduced to an area that was once their native habitat and which now supports only a few of the animals.
“We are confident that the result will be the same as it was prior to the interruption of the process – overwhelming support for grizzly bear recovery in the North Cascades, including from people in areas around the recovery zone,” Conservation Northwest said in the release.
A draft EIS on the restoration plan was released in early 2017, followed by public comment periods and public meetings, including one in Winthrop in February 2017. More than 126,000 comments and correspondence have been received on the draft EIS. The overwhelming majority supported the reintroduction proposal. In late 2017, the process was put on hold.
In August 2018, the Department of the Interior, NPS and USFWS said they intended to further evaluate input about the proposal, which meant that completion of a final EIS was further delayed.
A study by the NPS, released in 2018, turned up a significant body of evidence showing that grizzly bears roamed the North Cascades for thousands of years.
The EIS proposes three alternatives for re-establishing a population of 200 grizzly bears in the North Cascades Ecosystem, which includes 9,800 square miles in Washington state and another 3,800 square miles in British Columbia.
The draft EIS also includes a required “no action” alternative that would maintain the status quo.
“There isn’t a more charismatic and culturally important animal out there,” said Joe Scott, Conservation Northwest International Programs Lead who has worked for grizzly recovery in Washington and British Columbia for more than two decades. “We are confident in the integrity of the process conducted by the federal agencies to date and their efforts to include the public in the recovery process.”
Fewer than 10 grizzly bears are believed to reside in the North Cascades today, according to the Conservation Northwest press release.
How to comment
Comments previously submitted on the Draft EIS during the public comment period that was open from Jan. 12, 2017 through April 28, 2017, will be considered. You can view the Draft EIS online, and offer comments on it, at parkplanning.nps.gov/grizzlydeis. You can also mail or hand-deliver comments to: Superintendent’s Office, North Cascades National Park Service Complex, 810 State Route 20, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284.
Comments will not be accepted by fax, email, or any other way. Bulk comments in any format (hard copy or electronic) submitted on behalf of others will not be accepted.