Grizzly bears to return to Cascade Mountains under U.S. plan

Grizzly bears will return

The Okanagan Nation Alliance is applauding a decision south of the border that will see grizzly bears returned to the North Cascades.

The National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced last week that it would return grizzlies to the mountain range after years of talks.

“We are beginning a long process of recovery, and we are pleased to embark on this journey together with our U.S. partners” stated Chief Clarence Louie, Okanagan Nation Alliance Tribal Chairman.

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.

The last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear in the U.S. portion of the North Cascades ecosystem was in 1996.

The plan announced last week will see three to seven grizzly bears moved per year over a period of five to 10 years, in an effort to establish an initial population of 25 bears. The bears will be moved from the Rocky Mountains or Interior B.C.

"We are going to once again see grizzly bears on the landscape, restoring an important thread in the fabric of the North Cascades." Don Striker, superintendent of North Cascades National Park Service Complex said.

Grizzly bears, of course, do not care for international borders and it is expected the U.S. efforts will help populations in Canada as well.

The American proposal has been controversial with residents and was killed by the Trump administration in 2020 after pushback from residents and ranchers in the area.

Talks then resumed under the Biden administration.

The new grizzly bear population will be designated “a nonessential experimental population,” which will give authorities better tools to manage them alongside concerns “about human safety, property and livestock, and grizzly bear recovery,” said Brad Thompson, state supervisor for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The Okanagan Nation Alliance says its traditional territory is transborder, like the grizzly bears, so a cross-border effort for renewal of the keystone species is required.

The tribal council declared grizzly bears—ki?lawna—protected across the territory in 2014 and has been driving restoration efforts since.

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