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Comments sought on restoring grizzlies to North Cascades

This grizzly bear was photographed by backpacker Joe Sebille in North Cascades National park in October, 2010. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experts later confirmed it as a grizzly -- the first to be photographed in a half a century in the U.S. portion of the range. (Associated Press)
This grizzly bear was photographed by backpacker Joe Sebille in North Cascades National park in October, 2010. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experts later confirmed it as a grizzly -- the first to be photographed in a half a century in the U.S. portion of the range. (Associated Press)

WILDLIFE -- A tentative federal proposal to restore grizzly bears in the North Cascades will be explained at public meetings next month.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service are taking public comments for an environmental impact statement before deciding whether to take an active role in restoring the grizzly bear to the North Cascades Ecosystem.

The first meeting is 5 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. on March 3 at the Red Barn in Winthrop. Other meetings will follow in Okanogan, Wenatchee, Cle Elum, Seattle and Bellingham.

Online comments will be accepted through March 26 at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/NCEG

The grizzly bear was federally listed as a threatened species in the lower 48 United States in 1975. The species was listed as endangered by the state of Washington in 1980.

“The Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan calls on us to fully consider the restoration of the grizzly bear in the North Cascades, and this process will ensure we solicit public input before putting any plan into action,” said Robyn Thorson, FWS Pacific regional director.

Several conservation groups already have indicated their support for grizzly restoration.

Fewer than 20 grizzlies are known to roam the North Cascades ecosystem encompasses 9,800 square miles in the United States and another 3,800 square miles in British Columbia.  The United States portion includes North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake and Lake Chelan national recreation areas plus the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie national forests. 

A few grizzly bears have recently been sighted in the Canadian part of the ecosystem, but no grizzlies have been confirmed in the United States portion since a hiker documented one with a photo in 2010.

Details on the public open-house meetings:

Winthrop    March 3, 5-7:30 pm
    Red Barn Upper Meeting Room
    51 N. Hwy 20
    Winthrop, WA 98862

Okanogan    March 4, 5-7:30 pm
    Okanogan PUD Meeting Room
    1331 2nd Ave N
    Okanogan, WA 98840

Wenatchee    March 5, 6-8:30 pm
    Chelan County PUD Auditorium
    327 N. Wenatchee Ave.
    Wenatchee, WA 98801

Cle Elum    March 9, 5-7:30 pm
    Putnam Centennial Center Meeting Room
    719 East 3rd Street
    Cle Elum, WA 98922

Seattle    March 10, 5-7:30 pm
    Seattle Pacific University Bertona Classroom 1
    103 West Bertona
    Seattle, WA 98119

Bellingham    March 11, 5-7:30 pm
    Bellingham Central Library Lecture Room
    210 Central Avenue
    Bellingham, WA 98227



Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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