Chelan County Call to Suspend Efforts in Reintroducing Grizzly Bears to the North Cascades
Chelan County Commissioners are asking federal agencies to suspend their efforts in reintroducing grizzly bears back to the North Cascades.
Commissioners sent a letter to North Cascades National Park Service Complex Superintendent Don Striker, stating that they and other surrounding counties were not consulted about this project.
“We continue to oppose grizzly bear reintroduction given the likely negative impacts to public safety, economic development, recreation opportunities and the overall livelihood of our rural communities,” commissioners wrote.
On Nov. 14, the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that proposed reintroducing grizzly bears back into the North Cascades Ecosystem.
The Department of the Interior terminated the last EIS proposing reintroduction strategies back in 2020, with several Chelan and Okanogan County residents opposing the plan.
The North Cascades National Park Service hosted multiple virtual public hearings from Nov. 10 to Dec. 14, 2022. Commissioner Tiffany Gering said the public comment period was too short notice.
“I don't feel like there's been a lot of public process, meaning that the meetings that happened were scheduled very quickly and comments were due,” Gering said. “I just feel like everything was rushed and that the public didn't have a chance to really weigh in on the issue.”
Commissioner Gering also said that this plan already goes against state law, which currently prohibits transporting out-of-state grizzly bears into Washington.
“You're looking at an apex predator that when startled, will attack. It is a very dangerous situation for a lot of the people that frequent the North Cascades recreationally, but also for those who live around [them],” Gering said. “As those bears will inevitably come looking for food sources and come down into where the general public lives.”
The grizzly bear is currently on the endangered species list due to humans over-hunting the bear population to near extinction, with the North Cascadian grizzly bear last seen in 1996.