Last week the federal government announced it intends to launch an environmental analysis this fall as a possible step towards restoring grizzly bear populations in Washington state’s North Cascades, according to the Seattle Times.
Biologists estimate there are fewer than 20 grizzlies currently roaming the 10,000 square mile North Cascade ecosystem—the only one of six designated grizzly recovery areas outside the Rocky Mountains.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife grizzly-bear recovery coordinator Chris Servheen said the three-year analysis will include public debate and options to not restore the bears, and will help the agency determine the best course of action or if there’s a need to transplant bears from other regions to kick start the population.
“It may not be universally agreed upon at the end, but at least people will know it’s not something that was cooked up in a backroom,” he said.
Several organizations have pushed for grizzly restoration in the Cascades for years and are excited about possibly seeing the animals return, though some residents are concerned about the effect on private landowners in the area.
“Grizzly bears are incredible, wonderful animals,” said Tom Davis, director of government relations for the Washington Farm Bureau. “I just wouldn’t want them living next door to me, and I think that’s how farmers and ranchers … feel.”
A North Cascades recovery plan written 20 years ago set a population goal of 200 to 400 animals. Those against grizzly restoration say that number is too high. In fact, the debate is so controversial the sate legislature passed a law forbidding state agencies from importing bears.