WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) led Caucus members in demanding the National Park Service (NPS) and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) extend the public comment period on a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and accompanying 10(j) proposal under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on the Establishment of a Nonessential Experimental Population of Grizzly Bear in the North Cascades Ecosystem in Washington State.
“Time and again, northern Washingtonians have expressed their deep concerns about the introduction of grizzlies into the North Cascades, as they are a danger to the safety of their communities,” said Chairman Newhouse. “Despite this opposition, the Biden Administration is set on moving forward with the introduction of these apex predators against the will of locals. That’s why I’m joining with my colleagues to demand an extension of the public comment period on this proposed relocation of bears so that the Washingtonians impacted by this have adequate time to review and respond.”
Joining Chairman Newhouse on the letter are Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Russ Fulcher (ID-01), Cliff Bentz (OR-02), Harriet Hageman (WY-AL), and Matt Rosendale (MT-02).
The North Cascades Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan/Environmental Impact Statement was first proposed by the Obama Administration. Central Washington communities surrounding the North Cascades National Park were not provided an adequate opportunity to give their input on the proposal.
On June 6, 2018, the House Appropriations Committee approved Rep. Newhouse’s amendment to the FY19 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act that would deny funding to the U.S. Department of Interior to be used for the transport of grizzly bears in the North Cascades until local communities had the chance to adequately submit their public comments. The amendment was included in the passage of the final FY19 Interior Appropriations language.
U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish & Wildlife Rob Wallace was at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds Agriplex as many of the more than 600 North Central Washington residents provided up to two minutes of oral comment on the record. As reported by Capital Press, 50 people spoke in opposition to grizzly bear introduction, and 12 people spoke in support.
On November 10, 2022, the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced initiation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process with four virtual meetings to evaluate options for restoring and managing grizzly bears in the North Cascades of Washington.
Over 6,200 comments were received on the draft EIS, with the vast majority coming from outside of Washington state.
On September 28, 2023, the U.S. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced their intention to seek public comment on a proposed rule under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act related to the potential introduction of grizzly bears in the North Cascades.