The National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are reaching out to the public for their input on a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This EIS explores options for restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem in Washington, where they were once a vital part of the ecosystem. Additionally, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is inviting public comments on a proposed rule under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. This rule would grant local communities more flexibility in managing the grizzly bear population.
Why Restoring Grizzly Bear to the North Cascades is Important
For millennia, grizzly bears were an integral part of the North Cascades, helping disperse native plant seeds and maintain ecological balance. In the 20th century, human activities nearly wiped them out from the area, with the last confirmed sighting in the U.S. portion of the ecosystem in 1996.
The Plan to Possibly Restore Grizzly Bears Here
Don Striker, Superintendent of North Cascades National Park, seeks public input to determine the best path forward in grizzly bear recovery on these federal lands. The draft EIS presents various options, including a “no action” alternative and two action alternatives for restoring grizzly bears to North Cascades NP, each with differing population management approaches.
One of the action alternatives outlines designating grizzlies in the area as an experimental population under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. This designation would provide communities and land managers with additional tools for bear management, such as deterrence, relocation, or removal in conflict situations. These tools aim to enhance regional safety while conserving the species.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is separately soliciting public input on the proposed 10(j) rule, which outlines potential management strategies for grizzly bears if that alternative is chosen.
How You Can Make Your Voice Heard
During the 45-day public comment period, both agencies will organize virtual and in-person meetings near the ecosystem to discuss the draft EIS and the proposed 10(j) rule, offering opportunities for questions and verbal comments.
For more information, access the draft EIS, submit comments, and find details about public meetings, visit https://parkplanning.nps.gov/NCEGrizzly.
You can also submit hard copy comments on the draft EIS by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:
Office of the Superintendent
Grizzly Restoration EIS
810 State Route 20,
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284
To review the proposed 10(j) rule from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and submit comments after its September 29 publication, visit regulations.gov, referencing Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2023–0074. This information is also available in the Federal Register.
Hard copy comments on the proposed 10(j) rule can be submitted via U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:
Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R1–ES–2023–0074
Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.
This above news story is based on a press release from the National Park Service, which was issued on September 28, 2023. You can read the original release here.
Why is Restoring Grizzly Bear to the North Cascades Important
Grizzly bears would play a crucial role in the North Cascades ecosystem due to their profound impact on the environment. In my opinion, here’s why it’s important to have grizzly bears in this region based on what we know about their presence in other areas of the country:
- Ecosystem Balance: Grizzlies are considered a keystone species, meaning they have a disproportionately large impact on their ecosystem relative to their population size. They help regulate prey populations like deer and elk, preventing overgrazing and maintaining plant diversity. This, in turn, affects the entire food web.
- Seed Dispersal: Grizzly bears are excellent seed dispersers. They consume a wide variety of plant species and carry seeds in their feces to different locations, aiding in the growth and regeneration of plants. This contributes to the overall health of the forest.
- Nutrient Cycling: When grizzlies catch and consume salmon during the salmon runs, they transport marine-derived nutrients from the rivers to the forest. This nutrient transfer enriches the soil, benefiting both plants and other wildlife.
- Scavenger Role: Grizzlies are opportunistic scavengers, often feeding on carrion. Their presence helps clean up the environment by reducing the presence of carcasses, which can attract scavengers that might negatively impact other wildlife or even transmit diseases.
- Biodiversity: Through their actions and behavior, grizzly bears influence the distribution and abundance of numerous plant and animal species. Their presence can lead to greater biodiversity by promoting a mosaic of different habitat types.
- Educational and Research Value: Grizzlies serve as valuable subjects for scientific research and education, helping us better understand ecosystems and wildlife behavior. Their presence provides opportunities for students, scientists, and enthusiasts to study and appreciate these magnificent creatures.
So, as you can see, grizzly bears would be essential contributors to the ecological well-being of the North Cascades.
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Feature image: nps.gov