National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Investigating Bringing Grizzly Bears Back to Pacific Northwest

by Megan Molseed
(Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Two wildlife agencies are exploring several plans for bringing grizzly bears back to the Pacific Northwest. This would be part of a process that officials are trying to restart after it was halted by the Trump administration several years ago.

According to reports, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be joining forces to investigate plans for reintroducing grizzly bears to Washington State within the North Cascades.

The Wildlife Officials Have A Few Plans To Reintroduce The Bears To The Pacific Northwest

The National Park Service notes in a press release that the agencies are evaluating several plans for reintroducing the grizzly bears back into the area. These plans include designating the bears as an “experimental population.”

This route would place the new population of grizzlies on the “threatened” species list in the area. It would also give area land managers latitude as it relaxes certain guidelines that have been established for protection.

The superintendent of North Cascades National Park, Don Striker notes that bringing grizzly bears back into the areas is “a first step toward bringing balance back to the ecosystem.”

Furthermore, Striker notes that this move would restore “a piece of the Pacific Northwest’s natural and cultural heritage.”

“With the public’s help, we will evaluate a list of options to determine the best path forward,” the national park superintendent notes.  

Grizzlies Faced Low Numbers In The Pacific Northwest After Trapping And Hunting Destroyed Populations

Grizzlies were a common sight throughout the North Cascade area for thousands of years. However, this all changed in the 1800s when hunting and trapping practices greatly reduced the grizzly bear numbers. The National Park Service notes that these populations were all but destroyed by the late 1800s. The last official sighting of a grizzly bear on this side of the US was in 1996.

Officials began exploring options for this grizzly bear reintroduction back in 2015. However, the Trump Interior Department halted the program with little to no explanation in 2020. Now that the planning is once again underway, officials note they will be starting from the beginning…rather than where they left off a few years ago.

Plans Include Reintroducing Grizzlies To The Area

The most likely reintroduction scenario will include relocating bears captured within the Rocky Mountains or Western Canada to the Northern Cascade areas in the Pacific Northwest. This would operate over a five to ten-year period with officials releasing as many as seven bears each year.

“After 30 years of analyses, process and discussions we have a clear way forward,” notes Joe Scott, international program director for Conservation Northwest.

“It will take decades to do so and we’re confident that grizzly bears will thrive here just as they do in other wild places and parks,” Scott explains. “Which have served as a model for the rest of the world.”

However, some officials aren’t pleased with these plans. According to republican representative Dan Newhouse, the cancelation of the program by the Trump administration was a welcome one.

“The introduction of grizzly bears into the North Cascades would directly, and negatively, impact the people and the communities I represent,” Newhouse says in a news release. “My constituents and I have consistently opposed proposals to do so under multiple administrations because introducing an apex predator to the area would threaten the families, wildlife, and livestock of North Central Washington.”