Chelan County Commissioners are bracing for the reintroduction of grizzly bears to the Cascade Mountains. 

Commissioners were told by federal agencies they were moving forward with a specific plan, even before a decision is announced on the restoration.  

Commissioner Shon Smith says the final Environmental Impact Statement on the project last month did not consider local concerns about the bears. 

"It didn't take a whole lot of local comments into account," said Smith. "So, it looks like this is going through. And now we've just got to figure out how to get it through the guideposts and goalposts to get it ready for the residents who are going to have to live with these grizzly bear introductions." 

There's been a lot of public resistance to the grizzly bear reintroduction. Chelan County commissioners have long opposed the idea. And 4th District Republican Congressman Dan Newhouse has been vocal in his displeasure with the plan. 

A final decision on the reintroduction by federal agencies is expected very soon. 

Commissioner Tiffany Gering said she was told by a representative of the National Parks Service that the plan was moving forward under the 10 (j) designation. 

Smith said that the plan does allow for a local response if the bears infringe on private land. 

"We have local management for rogue grizzlies that could get out of the area or be doing damage to crops or humans or pets," Smith said. 

Congress added the 10 (j) designation to relieve landowner concerns that reintroductions may result in restrictions on the use of private, tribal, or public land. 

Under 10 (j), the grizzlies will be introduced as a nonessential experimental population with more flexible rules for managing bears. 

Landowners can continue to manage their lands without concern about violating the Endangered Species Act by inadvertently harming a species. 

Plans call for three to seven grizzly bears to be brought into the ecosystem annually over the next five to 10 years.   

It’s estimated there will eventually be approximately 200 grizzly bears within 60 to 100 years.  

According to the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the population of grizzly bears in the North Cascades was decimated through direct killing by humans, with the last sighting occurring in 1996.   

The North Cascades Recovery Zone targeted for grizzly bear reintroduction covers about 13,500 square miles of land and includes most of Chelan County stretching into British Columbia.   

The U.S. portion covers 9,800 square miles, a land mass larger than the state of New Jersey. 

Unlike many residents and officeholders in Chelan County and some other areas where the grizzlies are set to be reintroduced, Governor Jay Inslee welcomes the move. 

"I appreciate the Biden admin's efforts to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem," said Inslee late last month. "The last confirmed grizzly sighting in this prime habitat was nearly 30 years ago and slow reintroduction will restore balance to our state’s natural heritage." 

Commissioner Gering said she will attend the next inter-agency grizzly bear committee meeting in May in North Bend. 

Grizzly Bear Attacks and Kills Young Bison, Yellowstone National Park

Grizzly Bear Attacks and Kills Young Bison, Yellowstone National Park

Gallery Credit: Tammie Toren

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