A grizzly bear looks at the camera

It’s Official: Grizzly Bears to Be Reintroduced to Washington’s North Cascades National Park

Not seen since the mid-1990s, grizzly bears will once again call home the rugged terrain of the North Cascades.

The National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced Thursday, April 25, that they will actively restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades in Washington, where the species historically roamed.

Grizzly bears have been a critical part of the North Cascades ecosystem for thousands of years, playing key roles such as dispersing native plant seeds and maintaining wildlife population balances. The species’ decline was primarily due to human interference, with the last confirmed grizzly sighting in the U.S. portion of the North Cascades recorded in 1996.

According to the Record of Decision released today, the restoration will involve translocating grizzly bears from other areas in the Rocky Mountains or British Columbia. This move follows an Environmental Impact Statement process initiated in 2022.

Grizzly Bear Relocation to Washington

Officials plan to relocate three to seven grizzlies annually over the next five to ten years to establish a starting population of 25 bears. The North Cascades ecosystem spans approximately 9,800 square miles, an area larger than New Jersey, and about 85% is under federal management.

“We are going to once again see grizzly bears on the landscape, restoring an important thread in the fabric of the North Cascades,” said Don Striker, superintendent of North Cascades National Park Service Complex.

The grizzlies will be designated as a nonessential experimental population under Section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. This designation grants land managers additional management tools not typically available under the act’s regulations. A final 10(j) rule will be published in the Federal Register in the upcoming days.

Brad Thompson, State Supervisor for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, highlighted the extensive community engagement that shaped the decision. “The final 10(j) rule provides expanded management tools, recognizing that grizzly bear recovery depends on community tolerance,” Thompson said.

The public had a significant influence on the decision during the fall 2023 comment period, with over 12,000 responses received on the draft Environmental Impact Statement and the proposed 10(j) rule.

There is no confirmed start date for the bear translocations. The National Park Service will provide updates on its website and inform partners and the public as plans progress.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

The final 10(j) rule will soon be accessible via the Federal Register and at https://www.regulations.gov/ (reference Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2023-0074).

Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside