BOCC asks federal agencies to suspend efforts to reintroduce grizzly bears into North Cascades
Chelan County commissioners have submitted comments to the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, asking the federal agencies to immediately suspend current efforts to reintroduce grizzly bears into the North Cascades.
Commissioners also have asked the two agencies to begin consulting with the Board of County Commissioners, as well as neighboring counties, on the issue.
“This is frustrating, because the federal government pursued this effort only a few years ago,” Commissioner Tiffany Gering said. “The effort was suspended after local counties like Chelan County spoke out against it. Yet here we are again, re-addressing this issue.”
The submitted comments come after the NPS and USFWS hosted a series of four virtual public meetings to discuss grizzly bear restoration. The federal agencies are interested in initiating an Environmental Impact State process to evaluate options for restoring and managing grizzly bears in the North Cascades. Community comments were due Dec. 14.
The BOCC’s full comments, submitted to Don Striker, superintendent of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, are below:
Dear Mr. Striker:
Chelan County has reviewed the Notice of Intent from the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare a Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. We have previously provided extensive comments opposing grizzly bear reintroduction into our local communities. We continue to oppose grizzly bear reintroduction given the likely negative impacts to public safety, economic development, recreation opportunities and the overall livelihood of our rural communities. The federal agencies leading this effort have generally failed to address these concerns and have failed to engage in any meaningful way Chelan County and other neighboring counties in the proposed grizzly bear restoration area.
NPS and USWFS appear to acknowledge the inherent dangers of reintroducing grizzly bears to our local communities in the current proposal; however, instead of taking pause, they have chosen to accelerate the EIS effort. The "lOj" proposal is not well-defined. It identifies the need for grizzly bear management options for "certainty, safety and control for the region." However, it then goes on to suggest reintroduction. In a time when collaboration and partnerships are the norm for restoration efforts, the lack of coordination and consultation with local communities on this effort, as well as the failure to address rural community concerns, is disappointing.
Federal agencies have an obligation to coordinate and consult with local governments, specifically county governments, to ensure consistency between federal and local planning efforts and policies. There has been no effort to engage us in this current effort, and the EIS timeline appears to fast-track the effort toward a predetermined outcome. This board also questions the legality of the effort, given Washington State law states, "Grizzly bears shall not be transplanted or introduced into the state (RCW 77.12.035)." We are concerned the current approach appears to run counter to local and state policies and laws.
We request that you immediately suspend the current effort and consult with us and other counties in the proposed grizzly bear reintroduction area to discuss our concerns.
Kevin Overbay, Chairman
Tiffany Gering, Commissioner
Bob Bugert, Commissioner
Last Updated: 12/15/2022 11:18 AM