Community

Grizzly recovery based on facts

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Recently we attended a meeting of the Skagit County Commissioners with representatives from North Cascades National Park and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding a federal planning process considering grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades.

Expecting a collaborative discussion with federal agency partners, we were dismayed the County Commissioners had invited the American Stewards of Liberty—a Texas-based organization that seeks to gut the Endangered Species Act and privatize public lands—to berate the federal process and agency staff and spread inaccurate and inflammatory information about human–grizzly bear interactions. The Commissioners also invited Paul Fielder to speak at the meeting. Mr. Fielder is a retired biologist from the Chelan PUD and now an advocate for wildlife trapping in Montana.

The National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been leading a multiyear public process with U.S. Forest Service involvement —formally known as an Environmental Impact Statement—to engage local communities in determining the most effective ways to restore grizzly bears to self-sustaining numbers in the North Cascades.

This follows decades of scientific study following the 1975 listing of the grizzly bear as a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has since found that the North Cascades grizzly bear warrants an “endangered” classification given its extremely small numbers.

These magnificent creatures roamed the American West, including the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, for thousands of years, sharing the landscape with bison, elk, wolves, black bears, Native Americans, and eventually early European settlers.

However, unregulated trapping, poisoning, hunting and habitat loss eliminated grizzly bears from 98 percent of their former range in the contiguous United States. The last legally hunted grizzly bear in the Cascades was shot in 1967 in today’s North Cascades National Park.

Based on successful restoration efforts elsewhere—including Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and Montana’s Cabinet Mountains—the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan is considering several options to re-establish a self-sustaining number of bears in a 10,000-square mile (over 6 million acres) North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Area. 
Stretching from I-90 north to the Canadian border and anchored by North Cascades National Park, the designated North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Area is one of the largest blocks of wild, nationally owned public land remaining in the lower 48 states. Research indicates this wilderness landscape has quality habitat capable of supporting a self-sustaining grizzly bear population.

We don’t expect that everyone will support the restoration of grizzly bears, but concerns should be addressed with education based on facts, not fear. All three of us have worked and recreated in the backcountry every year, many days at a time, and have experienced no negative incidents with bears. We travel smartly, taking very simple measures to avoid conflicts with all wildlife, bears included. As a reward, we observe some amazing animals, doing what they do best in the backcountry, foraging on wild foods and keeping the ecosystem in balance. Wilderness, with its immense spaces, provides opportunities for that rare sighting of truly amazing creatures, and offers tranquility and hope for the future often lacking in our hurried lives.

Most Washington state residents understand this: A 2016 public opinion poll found that 80 percent of registered Washington State voters  surveyed support efforts to recover the declining population of grizzly bears in the North Cascades. Notably, this overwhelming support extends across gender, generational, regional and even partisan lines.

Likewise, the majority of public comments submitted as part of the EIS process to date have been strongly supportive of grizzly bear reintroduction.
We appreciate the County Commissioners looking out for the interests of Skagit County residents, and wanting to be engaged in the federal recovery process. Indeed, that is their job as our local elected officials.

However, the interests of local residents are not well served by importing a Texas-based, anti-Endangered Species Act, anti-public lands advocacy organization to spread inflammatory mistruths about grizzly bear reintroduction. 

For those who have concerns, working in partnership with agency scientists and planners, based on real information and best practices from other regions where people and grizzlies coexist, is the best approach. 

The commissioners have said they will meet again with federal agency representatives to hear responses to their questions and concerns.

Finally, we urge the Commissioners to work in partnership with federal and state agencies to address legitimate fears and concerns, and leave fear-mongering and broad anti-environmental political agendas out of the discussion.

Brenda Cunningham (M.S. in Biology) is a retired biologist, having worked on grizzly bear monitoring in the North Cascades ecosystem, as well as in Yellowstone National Park as both an interpretive ranger and resource management biologist. Peggy Ratermann (M.S. in Science Education) is a past research assistant in the biotechnology field, retired teacher in the Mount Vernon School District, and a frequent hiker and backpacker in our national parks and wilderness areas. Tim Manns had a 34-year career with the National Park Service as a park ranger/interpretive naturalist, including a decade in Yellowstone National Park and 14 years at North Cascades National Park.

Past Columns
Threshold Fund

June 13, 2018

Imprisoned Splendour

May 9, 2018

Pathways to Homeownership

April 25, 2018

Yes on I-1631

April 11, 2018

Divide-and-Conquer

October 11, 2017

Schools and Planning for Growth

September 27, 2017

Electronic Home Monitoring

September 13, 2017

Events
Today
Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bellingham Dance Company's Hunchback

7:00pm|Majestic

Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Open Air Summer Rep

7:30pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Chuckanut Writers Conference

9:00am|Whatcom Community College

Wild Things

9:30am|Marine Park

Lummi Stommish Water Festival

10:00am|Lummi Nation

Coffee Tasting

3:00pm|Camber Cafe

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Whatcom Cultural Arts Festival

5:00pm|Historic Fairhaven

Fourth Friday Art Walk

5:00pm|Historic Fairhaven

Beachside Barbecue

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Beachside Barbecue

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Keys for Kids

5:30pm|Stepping Stones Garden

Beachside Barbecue

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Salmon Dinner Sail

6:00pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Little Silver

7:00pm|Blanchard Chapel

Off Broadway

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Musicals and Brawls

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Tomorrow
Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bellingham Dance Company's Hunchback

7:00pm|Majestic

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Open Air Summer Rep

7:30pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Chuckanut Writers Conference

9:00am|Whatcom Community College

Lummi Stommish Water Festival

10:00am|Lummi Nation

Whatcom Cultural Arts Festival

5:00pm|Historic Fairhaven

Keys for Kids

5:30pm|Stepping Stones Garden

Off Broadway

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Musicals and Brawls

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Plant Hike

8:00am|Hannegan Pass Trail

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

Padden Triathlon

8:30am|Lake Padden Park

March Point Run

9:00am|Andeavor Refinery

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverwalk Park

Twin Sisters Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner, North Fork Library

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am| Depot Market Square

Welcome to Chickenlandia

10:00am|Blaine Library

Lynden Farmers Market

10:00am|Centennial Park

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am|Islander Grocery Store

How to Renovate an Older Urban Garden

10:00am|Roeder Home

Imagine This! Home & Landscape Tour

10:00am|Whatcom County

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Inside the green building scene

10:00am

Apps & Snaps for iPhone Gardeners

11:00am|Christianson's Nursery

A Novel Affair with Nancy Pearl

11:30am|Maple Hall

Ice Cream Class for Adults

12:00pm|Lynden Library

Concrete Saturday Market

1:00pm|Concrete Community Center

Lynden Cemetery Tour

1:00pm|Lynden Cemetery

Tuesdays with Morrie

2:00pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Seafood Boil

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Seafood Boil

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Saturday Seafood Boil

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Chuckanut Writers Conference Open Mics

7:00pm|Village Books Reading Gallery, Evolve Chocolate and Cafe, Lovitt Restaurant, and Magdalena's Creperie

Musical Reunion

7:00pm|YWCA Ballroom

Dudestock

7:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

An Evening with Ira Glass

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

2018 Cascadia Kids Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Sunday
Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bellingham Dance Company's Hunchback

7:00pm|Majestic

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Lummi Stommish Water Festival

10:00am|Lummi Nation

Off Broadway

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Brunch on the Bay

10:00am|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Skagit Symphony Garden Tour

10:00am|Mount Vernon

Junk in Your Trunk

10:00am|North Fork Library

Edison Farmers Market

10:00am|Edison Granary

La Conner Live

1:00pm|Gilkey Square

Women on the Water

1:00pm|Community Boating Center

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Trivia Time

3:30pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Way North Comedy Triple Header

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Take Me to Church

8:00pm|Rumors Cabaret

see our complete calendar »

Trove Web Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books 2018 Cascadia Kids