U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced Tuesday at a roundtable with community members in Omak, Washington, that the Department of the Interior will not move forward with a new Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan for the North Cascades Ecosystem and the associated environmental impact statement .
In a press release, Bernhardt said, “The Trump Administration is committed to being a good neighbor, and the people who live and work in north-central Washington have made their voices clear that they do not want grizzly bears reintroduced into the North Cascades. Grizzly bears are not in danger of extinction, and Interior will continue to build on its conservation successes managing healthy grizzly bear populations across their existing range.”
“Homeowners, farmers, ranchers and small business owners in our rural communities were loud and clear: We do not want grizzly bears in North Central Washington,” Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington’s 4th district said in the release. “I have long advocated that local voices must be heard by the federal government on this issue, and I am enormously grateful to Secretary Bernhardt for not only listening to our concerns and opinions, but for delivering this news in person, right here in North Central Washington.”
Conservationist did not welcome the news.
“Recent public comment periods and past polling show that roughly 80 percent of respondents support grizzly bear restoration in the backcountry in and around North Cascades National Park, including residents on both sides of the Cascade Crest,” said Chase Gunnell, communications director for Conservation Northwest.
“Despite what Rep. Dan Newhouse has claimed, many local residents of Okanogan County support grizzly bear restoration, including attendees at the Omak event last fall and many of the more than 250 people who turned out for Conservation Northwest and Methow Valley Citizen’s Council’s event in Winthrop in October.
“We’re concerned about the lack of transparency that led to this decision, and its departure from the yearslong public process that consistently documented strong public support for careful grizzly bear restoration led by science and community input, including more than 130,000 supportive comments.”
The department began planning the environmental review process for an updated Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan for the North Cascades Ecosystem in February 2015.
“It is truly disappointing that the Trump administration has abruptly decided to pull the plug on a yearslong effort to recovery grizzly bears in the North Cascades,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Grizzly bears only occupy less than 5% of their historic range, and the North Cascades presents prime habitat for grizzly bears. Their recovery there is critical to the overall recovery of grizzly bears in the U.S.”
“Newhouse is ignoring a large majority of his constituents who support grizzly bear recovery many of whom who live in the heart of the proposed recovery area. Instead he is cutting back-room deals with a corrupt Administration, serving only a small portion of special interests,” said Jasmine Minbashian, executive director of Methow Valley Citizens Council.
“He can do better than this. The proposed restoration plan is a modest plan that would give grizzly bears a chance at survival in their native home – the North Cascades.”
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has been the primary focus of grizzly recovery efforts. The GYE grizzly bear population is one of the most studied bear populations in the world due to the longstanding efforts of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team with grizzly bear populations increasing significantly since being listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1975.
More information about the department’s efforts to improve the status of grizzly bears in the lower 48 U.S. states can be found online at www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/es/grizzlybear.php.
Scotchman group picks volunteer of the year
Annie Gassman is one of those people who prefers action over talk.
Over the years, she’s put that attitude to work volunteering for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, educating and informing people about our wild backyard. Her volunteer work is extensive, which is exactly why she was named the FSPW Old Goat of 2020, announced Wednesday at the annual State of the Scotchmans event.
The award is the highest FSPW volunteer honor.
Gassman plays a pivotal role in the Winter Tracks program in Lincoln County, spreading an appreciation for nature in the process. She has shared her knowledge of wilderness through guided hikes.
Her welcoming personality at the Kootenai Harvest Festival, on top of the work she puts in on the planning committee, shows her commitment to the community.
The event honored other valued volunteers, including John and Susan Harbuck, Anick Baribeau, Katie Raborn-Dale, Irv McGeachy, Matt Nykiel, Howard and Connie Shay and Ed Robinson. FSPW executive director Phil Hough updated attendees on the work the Friends have done in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes the new wilderness podcast Your Wild Place, available to download or stream at www.scotchmanpeaks.org/podcast/.