Public comment is being sought until Nov. 13 on a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that evaluates options for restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem, which once supported a healthy population of grizzlies.
By the early 20th century, humans had hunted grizzly bears in the North Cascades into virtual extinction. The last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear in the Washington portion of the ecosystem was in 1996.
The draft EIS released last week proposes two alternatives that would relocate bears from other parts of the U.S. and Canada to the North Cascades Ecosystem, a rugged landscape encompassing 9,800 square miles in Washington that includes the Methow Ranger District and the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest, the North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
The preferred approach of the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the agencies leading the restoration planning, would give grizzlies special designation as an “experimental population,” under the Endangered Species Act. That designation would offer greater flexibility in managing the bears within and outside the ecosystem, including deterrence, relocation or lethal removal of bears involved in conflict.
Comment is sought on both the draft EIS and the experimental population designation. Comments must be received before midnight on Nov. 13. Read more about the proposal next week in the Methow Valley News.
• To review the draft EIS or submit comments, go to: parkplanning.nps.gov/NCEGrizzly. Hard copy comments on the draft EIS can be submitted by mail or delivered to: Office of the Superintendent, Grizzly Restoration EIS, 810 State Route 20, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284.
• To read or comment on the experimental population 10(j) designation go to: regulations.gov. In the Search box enter Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2023-0074.
• Hard copy comments on the 10(j) rule can be mailed to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2023-0074, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Fall Church, VA 22041-3803.
A virtual meeting and two in-person meetings are scheduled by the lead agencies to provide information to the public and take comment.
• Oct. 17, 7-8:30 p.m., virtual meeting. Link to join is at: parkplanning.nps.gov/NCEGrizzly under the “Meeting Notices” link.
• Oct. 30, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Okanogan County Fairgrounds (Agriplex and Annex), 175 Rodeo Trail Road, Okanogan.
• Nov. 1, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Currier Hall, 500 Newhalem St., Newhalem.