Plan Would Replenish Hugely Reduced Native Population
Republicans have sabotaged efforts to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades in Washington state where trappers and bounty hunters killed off most bears by 1860.
The House Appropriations Committee voted against funding bear reintroduction efforts in fiscal 2019 to 9,800 square miles of the North Cascades between Interstate 90 and the Canadian border. It’s an area so remote that the young bears from Montana and British Columbia would be brought in by helicopter.
“I have heard my constituents loud and clear on their opposition to transporting grizzly bears to the North Cascades,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) who sponsored the amendment.
Brett Hartl, the government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the amendment would prohibit federal biologists from working on the project.
“No money is saved because those staffers will just work on other projects,” Hartl said. “Instead, this amendment was driven…(by) ideological opposition to recovering endangered species.”
The full House and the Senate would also need to approve not funding grizzly bear restoration efforts for this to be left out of the 2019 budget.
Federal wildlife officials have worked since 1991 to bring grizzly bears back to the North Cascades, the second-largest federal grizzly bear recovery area in our country. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke supported those efforts, traveling to Sedro-Woolley, Wash., to say that grizzly bears should be in the North Cascades National Park and surrounding areas.
“The loss of the grizzly bear in the North Cascades would disturb the ecosystem and rob the region of an icon,” Zinke said.
Grizzly bears are almost extinct in the Cascades. Only four grizzly bears have been detected in the last decade in the Cascade Mountains, and those bears were in Canada. The bears have not recovered from the trapping heyday of the 1800s when 3,788 grizzly bear hides were shipped from forts in or near the North Cascades from 1827 to 1859.
Grizzly bears were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975, but area ranchers and other area residents have opposed efforts to reintroduce grizzly bears.
“People deserve a choice,” said wilderness outfitter Steve Darwood. “If they want to see grizzlies, they can go to Yellowstone.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which has spent $123,000 on federal lobbying so far this year, opposes reintroducing grizzly bears in the North Cascades. The association has given $63,500 to members of the House Appropriations Committee in this election cycle, including $10,000 for Newhouse.
About 97% of the North Cascades in our country is public land. Federal officials have estimated that if the grizzly population reached 200, the bears, which mostly eat plants and insects, would kill one cow a year and two sheep.
Featured photo: NPS / Neal Herbert