Restoring the Grizzly

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Earlier this month, the White House elected to roll back efforts to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem.

The decision by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to terminate the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Restoration Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) puts grizzlies at risk of extinction. The Trump administration is responsible for rolling back environmental policies including EIS that aim to protect wildlife like the grizzly bear in order to benefit industrial America. Trump’s policy will be the demise of grizzly bears unless there’s a new plan set forth to reintroduce them back into one of their native homes, the North Cascades.

According to wildlife biologists from Conservation Northwest, fewer than 10 grizzly bears remain in the North Cascades. They estimate this region can withstand approximately 200 bears and population recovery could take up to 100 years. A new reintroduction plan should gain widespread support among Washingtonians, as well as Native Americans and First Nations, due to the grizzly bear being a major part of their cultural identities. Grizzly bears are critical to the North Cascades natural ecosystem because they are an apex predator, their fecal matter spreads seeds and they till the soil when digging for roots.

Reintroducing grizzly bears back into the North Cascades will have a low impact on people because the territory is vast and rugged, and human and grizzly bear encounters will be extremely rare.

Washingtonians are outdoorsy people who are already accustomed to protecting themselves from bears. Washington National Parks require guests to pack bear canisters with them while backpacking, carry bear spray and hang their food in trees away from camp.

Environmentalists, conservationists and policy makers alike need to push back against Trump’s policy, which currently threatens grizzly bears in the North Cascades. A new reintroduction plan needs to be reenacted quickly to help save grizzly bears from extinction, preserve Native American and First Nations cultural identities and maintain a healthy ecosystem within the North Cascades. Jane Goodall once said, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

Michelle McDaniel is a fourth-year Huxley student at Western Washington University, majoring in environmental journalism.

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