Home » Grizzly bears are set to be reintroduced to Washington state, after years of debate

Grizzly bears are set to be reintroduced to Washington state, after years of debate

by NBC News

Grizzly bears will be reintroduced to Washington state’s North Cascades mountain range, the federal government said this week — a decision that followed years of bitterly divided debate.

But it may still be years before the creatures step foot in the remote and rugged landscape, given that the complicated process requires trapping, trucking and moving bears by helicopter from British Columbia or northwestern Montana.

“There’s a lot to be done before we could even come up with a timeline,” said Jason Ransom, a wildlife biologist at North Cascades National Park. “For a project like this to be successful, it’s really important you get the planning right.”

The National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that they hope to build a “founder population” of 25 bears over the next five to 10 years, releasing the animals in remote parts of the forest.

The move would restore a keystone species to the North Cascades, which is one of the best-protected landscapes in the U.S. Grizzlies were once found throughout the region, but thousands were killed for their fur. The bears haven’t been spotted with certainty there since 1996, according to the National Park Service.

The two agencies plan to release three to seven bears each year. The goal is a population of 200 bears within 60 to 100 years.

The North Cascades is one of six areas where federal agencies are pursuing grizzly restoration.

Advocates say the effort will make the overall ecosystem healthier.

“Our culture had a war on these species and we know better now, and this is a chance for us to tell a different story,” said Gordon Congdon, a retired orchardist and conservationist who lives in Wenatchee, Washington, and who has supported the restoration effort. “We think by restoring the grizzly bear, that improves the ecology of the environment, which benefits other animals and benefits the diversity of habitat.”

Ransom said grizzlies turn over soil, spread seeds and can…

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