The National Park Service just completed taking public comments concerning the possible reintroduction of grizzly bears in the North Cascades of Washington. The recovery area includes North Cascades National Park, which contains designated wilderness, as well as other adjacent wilderness areas. Bears would be translocated from British Columbia and Montana via helicopter.

Grizzly bears are native to the North Cascades but were largely extirpated in the 20th Century. It is believed a few bears still survive in the region. This may be due to grizzly populations that exist in British Columbia, with bears moving between Canada and Washington. Despite connectivity, the government failed to analyze the natural recovery of bears in the Cascades.

Capturing bears from Montana turns a blind eye to current recovery efforts in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. Removing bears could also hamper the natural recovery of bears in the Bitterroot Recovery Zone of Idaho/Montana. A male grizzly dispersed from the Cabinet – Yaak area to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness this summer. The bear did this with no human intervention.

The heavy-handed recovery of bears in the North Cascades would require hundreds of helicopter landings inside wilderness. This is a ridiculous proposal because the use of motorized equipment is incompatible with wilderness character. A federal judge recently ruled that the Forest Service was wrong for allowing Idaho Department Fish & Game to use helicopters inside the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness. The natural recovery of bears would be better for wilderness and possibly the bears, too.

Brett Haverstick

Moscow

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