Grizzly Bears in the North Cascades
The National Park Service this week took an important step toward recovering grizzly bears in the North Cascades in Washington state. The agency says it is beginning a three-year process to analyze options for boosting grizzly bear populations in the area, including the possibility of translocating bears and developing a viable population.
"We're happy to see the Park Service begin the long-overdue conversation about bringing grizzly bears back to the North Cascades," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Grizzlies have lost more than 95 percent of their historic habitat in the lower 48 states so we welcome any step that brings them closer to returning to some of their ancestral homes."
In June, the Center petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to begin returning grizzly bears to vast swaths of the American West. The petition identified more than 110,000 square miles of potential grizzly bear habitat, including parts of Washington, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.
Today, there are roughly 1,500-1,800 grizzly bears in the continental United States, most of them in and around Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. The grizzly populations remain separated from each other, which impedes genetic exchange and limits their ability to expand into new areas.
The Northern Cascades ecosystem includes about 9,800 square miles in the United States and 3,800 square miles in Canada. A grizzly bear has not been spotted on the U.S. side since 2010.
"The Northern Cascades has the potential to host a viable grizzly bear population," Greenwald said. "The same could be said for many spots scattered throughout the West. If grizzly bears are ultimately going to have a thriving, healthy population no longer threatened by extinction, they've got to be given a chance to return to some of the places they were driven out of years ago."
Grizzly bears image via Shutterstock.
Read more at Center for Biological Diversity.