Okanagan Nation calls on U.S. to restart grizzly bear recovery

Will grizzly bears return?

The Okanagan Nation Alliance is calling on the U.S. government to move ahead with shelved plans to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades.

Perhaps thousands of grizzlies once roamed the mountain range between the Fraser and Similkameen Rivers, continuing south into Washington State. Present day, the population has been functionally extirpated, with only sporadic sightings over the past two decades.

On Thursday, the Syilx Nation urged the US Secretary of Interior to relaunch the recovery process of the grizzly population south of the border while similar discussions continue in B.C.

An American proposal to relocate grizzlies to the region was killed in July 2020 by the Trump administration in response to pushback from residents and ranchers in the area.

The Syilx Nation, however, is hoping the Biden administration will receive the plan.

The First Nation has been leading grizzly — ki?lawna in the Syilx language — stewardship and recovery in the region since 2014 in collaboration with with the provincial government.

“The boundaries created by the US and Canada, are not recognized by ki?lawna. We are urging the US Department of Interior to act immediately and reinstate their recovery planning for this important species. By doing this we will be able to maximize viability of a future grizzly bear population throughout the North Cascades,” said ONA tribal chair Chief Clarence Louie.

It is estimated just six grizzly bears reside on the Canadian side of the North Cascades. The B.C. government has talked about relocating more bears to the region since at least 2019, but the idea is still years away from fruition.

ONA natural resource manager Cailyn Glasser told Castanet part of their push to have the United States relaunch their recovery plan, is so it can work in conjunction to the B.C. recovery plan down the road.

“ki?lawna has been an integral and critical part of Syilx culture since time immemorial, and its presence is an indicator of the health of the land and Nation,” said the ONA in its announcement.

"The ONA will continue the work to ensure that the ki?lawna population will be successfully stewarded back to abundance throughout the North Cascades."

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