Chelan County commissioners are encouraging residents to let federal agencies know how they feel about plans to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades region. 

 Commissioner Shon Smith says they've expressed continued opposition to the reintroduction, and he questions the reasoning behind it. 

“The fact that we’ve done nothing to keep them out of the North Cascades, so if they’d like to come down from Canada and settle in the area, nothing is stopping them,” said Smith. “But here we are actively reintroducing them to an area that they’re not currently in. (It) doesn’t make a lot of sense to us as locals.” 

Federal agencies claim grizzly bears in the North Cascades were decimated through direct killing by humans. 

Still, Smith says Grizzly Bears are a major threat to public safety, much more so than Black bears which currently populate the area. 

“They’re an Apex predator, and of course we are on their food chain,” Smith said. “So, it is a concern for us Chelan County leaders and residents as to, ‘how’s this going to affect our outdoor activities’. And I know there’s a lot of support for it. But there’s also plenty of opposition towards it.” 

Chelan County commissioners penned a letter to the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December of 2022, asking the federal agencies to immediately suspend current efforts to reintroduce grizzly bears into the North Cascades. 

“We continue to oppose grizzly bear reintroduction given the likely negative impacts to public safety, economic development, recreation opportunities and the overall livelihood of our rural communities,” the letter reads. “The federal agencies leading this effort have generally failed to address these concerns and have failed to engage in any meaningful way Chelan County and other neighboring counties in the proposed grizzly bear restoration area.” 

Commissioners signed off on the letter before Smith assumed office in January of this year, but he is in agreement with its sentiment. 

Meanwhile, Washington 4th District Congressman Dan Newhouse introduced legislation earlier this month aimed at blocking the reintroduction of Grizzly bears to the North Cascades 

The bill would eliminate the framework currently being used by federal agencies for the restoration of Grizzly bears in the region. 

The National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for restoration of grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem. 

On September 28, 2023, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service announced their intention to seek public comment on a proposed rule under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act related to the potential introduction of grizzly bears in the North Cascades. 

Newhouse’s bill would withdraw both the EIS and the section 10(j) rule. 

There are in person public meetings on the Grizzly bear reintroduction plans next Monday (Oct. 30) and Friday (Nov. 3) in Okanogan County that Chelan County commissioners are asking residents to attend if possible. 

They take place on Oct. 30 in Okanogan at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds (Agriplex and Annex) 5:30-8:30 pm and Nov. 3 in Winthrop at the Winthrop Barn Auditorium 5:30-8:30 pm. 

Online comments are being accepted here through Nov. 13. 

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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