Feds Release Draft Plan to Recover Grizzlies in Wash.
SEATTLE – Federal agencies have released a draft plan for how to recover the grizzly bear population in the North Cascades region of Washington state.
Suffering from increasingly thinning populations, a grizzly hasn't been sighted in the U.S. portion of the North Cascades since 1996, although one recently was confirmed within 20 miles of the U.S. border.
Shawn Cantrell, Pacific Northwest field program director for the group Defenders of Wildlife, says the current bear population is fragile.
"This recovery plan is really essential to come up with a strategy that will allow these bears to begin to recover, see their population reverse this decline that's been going on," he states.
Three of the four options presented by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set goals of 200 bears over varying time periods.
Opponents of re-population worry about interactions between grizzlies and humans or livestock.
But the agencies note grizzlies tend to avoid areas of human activity and would be relocated to remote areas of public land near North Cascades National Park.
The decision comes as federal officials consider delisting grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park, where the population is estimated to be around 700.
While a plan to help the species in Washington state has long been delayed, Cantrell says public support for recovering grizzlies in the North Cascades is high.
He says according to a poll conducted by Defenders of Wildlife, 80 percent of Washingtonians support recovery efforts.
"The public has clearly spoken,” he stresses. “They want to see this happen, and it's exciting to see the federal agencies now stepping up and trying to move this process forward."
The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed options for recovery at a series of eight public meetings or online through March 14.