- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Trump administration on Tuesday scrapped the on-again, off-again plan to reintroduce the grizzly bear to Washington state’s Northern Cascades, citing opposition from locals worried about close encounters with the apex predator.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced Tuesday that the department has nixed the Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan for the North Cascades Ecosystem, a proposal that has been kicked around since 2015, and canceled the related Environmental Impact Statement.

“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,” Mr. Bernhardt said in a statement.

The grizzly bear has been listed as a threatened species in the lower 48 states since 1975, but its numbers have rebounded, with as many as 1,700 roaming the Northern Rocky Mountain region and 32,000 in Alaska. About 55,000 bears live in North America.

“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,” Mr. Bernhardt said.

The idea of reintroducing the grizzlies to the area picked up steam in 2018 under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who said he supported the concept. The National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service reopened a comment period on the proposed reintroduction in July 2019.

Wildlife advocates cheered the plan, noting that only about 10 grizzlies still live in the region that was once part of their range, but residents of Rep. Dan Newhouse’s district northeast of Seattle, which includes the Northern Cascades region, were less enthusiastic.

“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,” Mr. Newhouse said in a Tuesday statement.

He praised Mr. Bernhardt for making the announcement at a community roundtable in Omak, Washington.

“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,” Mr. Newhouse said.

The department has focused its reintroduction efforts on the grizzly population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, seeking twice to delist the bears before being stymied by federal judges after challenges from wildlife groups.

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