The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are collecting public feedback to evaluate the best path forward to grizzly bear recovery on federal lands.

There is a push for the reintroduction of grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem.

Grizzle bears occupied the North Cascades for thousands of years, distributing native plant seeds and keeping other wildlife populations in balance. The National Park Service says the last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear in the U.S. portion of the North Cascades was in 1996 as humans nearly hunted them to extinction.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is also inviting public comment on a proposed rule under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act that would provide local communities more flexibility to manage the grizzly bear population with additional wildlife management tools.

“If this part of our natural heritage is restored, it should be done in a way that ensures communities, property, and the animals can all coexist peacefully. A 10(j) experimental designation could provide the tools to do that,” said Hugh Morrison, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Director said in a release.  

4th District Congressman Dan Newhouse is reacting to the announcement. He says the introduction of grizzlies into the North Cascades would be devastating to North Central Washington communities.

"Citizens of North Central Washington in particular have made it clear that this is not an action that they want or for the safety of their communities. This is for the safety of our livestock industry. This is something that they have made their voices heard loud and clear in years past," Representative Newhouse said. "There's an opportunity again that needs to be utilized to make that clear again and I urge people to make sure that they do let their voice be heard."

Virtual and in-person meetings will be held to collect public feedback.

More information is available online here.

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