U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke traveled to Sedro-Woolley, Wash., where he announced support of grizzly bear restoration efforts in North Cascades National Park and the surrounding ecosystem. The move was not welcomed by the Public Lands Council (PLC) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA).
The secretary emphasized the cultural and spiritual importance of grizzly bears in tribal communities, the contributions grizzly bears make to the biodiversity of the ecosystem and the ecological devastation that the permanent loss of grizzly bears would cause if nothing is done.
“Restoring the grizzly bear to the North Cascades ecosystem is the American conservation ethic come to life,” Zinke said. “We are managing the land and the wildlife according to the best science and best practices. The loss of the grizzly bear in the North Cascades would disturb the ecosystem and rob the region of an icon. We are moving forward with plans to restore the bear to the North Cascades, continuing our commitment to conservation and living up to our responsibility as the premier stewards of our public land.”
Ethan Lane, PLC and NCBA federal lands executive director, said the organizations were extremely disappointed with the decision. “For more than a year, we have heard the secretary talk about being a better neighbor, but unfortunately, actions speak louder than words," Lane said. "Reintroducing as many as 200 man-eating predators into an area already reeling from exploding gray wolf populations is anything but neighborly. This decision won’t just impact ranchers; it’s a blow for the entire North Cascades ecosystem, the safety of locals and visitors and the local economy, too. In fact, the only beneficiaries of an action like this will be the radical environmental activists that support this type of ill-advised ecosystem tinkering."
Sarah Ryan, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Assn., said the idea of dumping man-eating grizzly bears from helicopters into Washington National Parks has not been well thought out.
“Once the grizzly bears walk out of the park into rural towns and private and state lands, the communities surrounding the recovery area can be greatly impacted. Already, the livestock community has had little to no help with the management and recovery of wolves in the North Cascades and cannot accept and welcome another federally listed apex predator with no monetary help from the federal government,” she stated. “What is the reasoning behind thinking a recovery like this can be accomplished without the support of the ranching, logging, recreation and natural resource-based communities or consideration for public safety?"
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R., Wash.) also expressed disappointment in Zinke’s decision, saying, “Local communities in central Washington thought reintroducing grizzly bears was a bad idea when proposed by the previous Administration, and it would be just as bad an idea if entertained by the current Administration. The federal government should listen to and respect the local community.”
The National Park Service, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other cooperating agencies developed a draft environmental impact statement and conducted numerous public meetings. More than 126,000 comments and correspondence were received on the alternatives. The comments will be analyzed and addressed to be included in the final environmental impact statement, which is tentatively scheduled for release in late summer 2018.