by Kara Kostanich
Thursday, January 19th 2017
SEATTLE — The threatened majestic and mighty grizzly bear hasn’t been seen in the North Cascade for more than 20 years.
But that could be changing. A preliminary draft plan has been unveiled to reintroduce grizzlies into North Central Washington.
“This project would bring the grizzly bears, these magnificent symbols of wilderness, and bring back the ecological function that grizzly bears provide to the ecosystem,” said Fred Koontz, vice president of field conservation at the Woodland Park Zoo.
If the plan moves forward – over the next five years, up five bears annually would be captured from other locations and brought to the most remote areas of the North Cascades.
“We hear about people who like to experience a wild North Cascades, with all its native species, including grizzly bears,” said Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest, “and from people who want more information on how they can co-exist with these animals.”
Alex Lansa, who supports reintroducing the animals to the North Cascades, has spent the four summers on the trail crew at Yellowstone National Park and has experienced grizzly bears first hand.
“I think it’s exciting…seeing a bear is one of the most thrilling things that can happen.”
The proposed reintroduction does have opposition from ranchers.
The Washington Cattleman’s Association released a statement to us that says in part:
“The WCA strongly opposes the proposed action to reintroduce grizzly bears into Washington State. We believe that grizzly bear recovery and recolonization must occur naturally with human augmentation.”
But conservationist Fred Koontz says the bears would be far away from civilization, tagged and monitored by biologist daily in hopes of bringing back up to 200 bears over the next century.
“This whole process is a wonderful learning exercise for the scientist and the public to see how we can bring back the health of ecology and the bears in our state.”
The draft plan is open for public comment until March. 17.