Biden admin accelerates plan to unleash grizzly bears near rural community over widespread local opposition

The Biden administration is accelerating a proposed plan to translocate grizzly bear populations in the federally-managed North Cascades National Park, which borders rural communities in northern Washington State.

In a joint announcement, the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service published a final environmental impact statement evaluating its options for grizzly bear management in the region. The filing lists the federal government’s preferred course of action as the translocation of grizzly bears from other ecosystems with an “experimental population designation.”

“Designation of grizzly bears released into the U.S. portion of the [North Cascades Ecosystem] as a [nonessential experimental population] would provide authorized agencies with greater management flexibility should conflict situations arise,” the agencies wrote in the filing. “Any management actions would be consistent with the overall goal of establishing and conserving the NEP while promoting social tolerance and human safety.”

“The designation allows for the advancement of recovery objectives by providing an opportunity to reestablish a population within the ecosystem,” they added. “The proposed geographic extent for the grizzly bear … includes all of Washington state except an exclusion area around the Selkirk Ecosystem grizzly bear recovery where a population of bears currently exists.”


The Biden administration’s proposed plan would seek to establish a population of 200 bears in the North Cascades ecosystem in northern Washington over the course of the next five to 10 years. (Getty Images)

The National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service further wrote in their environmental impact statement that its proposal is expected to improve social tolerance of grizzly bears, and even increase public visitation and recreation in North Cascades National Park “as visitors seek to experience grizzly bears in their native habitat.”

The agencies, though, acknowledged the potential impact of the proposal on local communities, livestock and farms. As a result, the plan allows people to injure or kill a grizzly bear that is threatening a person’s life or is in the act of attacking livestock, including working dogs on private land, under certain conditions.


Still, the proposal was quickly condemned by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), which represents cattle ranchers, and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., who represents local communities in the region.

Grizzly bears, which are an apex predator species, are listed by the federal government as threatened but not endangered. (iStock)

“The status included in today’s announcement may be the administration’s attempt to placate the state, but we continue to stand with the ranchers and rural families in northwest Washington who do not want this proposal to move forward at all,” said NCBA Government Affairs Director Sigrid Johannes. “Dropping new apex predators into rural Americans’ backyards is not something that the federal government should undertake without consensus.”

“State and local stakeholders have made their serious concerns about this proposal known for years now, and plowing forward to the detriment of local farmers and ranchers would be unwise for both conservation of the species and health of the rural economy,” she added. “We urge the administration to listen to local communities and reconsider this plan.”


Newhouse noted locals’ widespread opposition to the proposal. Late last year, federal officials hosted a town hall in his district to receive feedback on the translocation of grizzly bears and, while hundreds of residents attended, just six spoke in favor of the plan.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., the chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, speaks in opposition to the Biden administration’s plan to release grizzly bears near Washington communities during a public comment session. (Courtesy of Rep. Dan Newhouse)

“This final EIS reveals the Biden Administration is more intent on pushing policies about Central Washingtonians than for them,” Newhouse said in a statement. “The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service held public comment sessions in my district where the overwhelming majority of voices, which I heard firsthand, were adamantly opposed to the introduction of grizzly bears.”

“Their voices have been shut out of this entire process,” he continued. “This administration’s blatant disregard for public opinion and their unwavering commitment to the whims of extreme environmentalists, many whom don’t live anywhere near where the bears will be, is proven by the announcement of their ‘preferred alternative’ today.”


In late September, the Biden administration first proposed the translocation plan and issued a draft environmental impact statement opening the door to release the apex predator in the region. Under the proposal, the federal government would release up to seven grizzly bears annually into the North Cascades ecosystem over the course of the next five to 10 years.

An estimated 200 residents participated in the comment session hosted by federal officials late last year to hear feedback regarding the proposal to release grizzly bears in a nearby forest area. (Courtesy of Rep. Dan Newhouse)

The federal government’s overarching goal under its plan is to establish a grizzly bear population of roughly 200 bears in the coming decades.

According to the National Park Service, Grizzly bears occupied the North Cascades and served as an “essential part of the ecosystem” for thousands of years. However, in the 20th century, as a result of aggressive hunting practices, the species was driven into near extinction, and the last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear in the North Cascades ecosystem was in 1996.

Reintroducing grizzly bear populations in Washington, therefore, has been a priority for environmental groups who have argued that the species is vital for the wider ecosystem.

“Finally, there is hope to see grizzly bears again in this wild landscape,” said Kathleen Callaghy, the Northwest representative for conservation group Defenders of Wildlife. “We are deeply grateful to Secretary Haaland, Director Sams, Director Williams and our legislative allies for showing collaboration and partnership at its best for the sake of conservation. Today is a day to be proud.”

Thomas Catenacci is a politics writer for Fox News Digital.

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