SCCA recently commented on the latest version of the National Parks Service proposal to reintroduce Grizzly Bears in the North Cascades. SCCA spoke out on the issue in 2015, but NPS is continuing to pursue the idea. Considering the serious impacts of other reintroduced predators (wolves), adding to the predator burden is foolish. Read our comments below and then be sure to make a comment at:
This is a formal comment from the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association to again record our strong opposition to any reintroduction or “recovery” of grizzly bears into the North Cascades. A deliberate, artificial introduction or encouragement of this species in Washington State will cause untold economic and social damages in areas that are not suited to the proliferation of this large, dangerous predator.
In addition to having serious impacts to farms, ranches and orchards in the North Cascades, grizzlies also pose serious risks for recreationalists as the bears can be very aggressive and can easily harm or maim human beings.
In 2013 alone, 7 people were attacked by grizzlies, including a hunter in Alaska, two habitat researchers in Idaho and hikers in Yellowstone National Park. In 2011, two hikers were killed in two separate grizzly bear attacks in Yellowstone, exactly in the area where grizzly bear “recovery” is being promoted. There are at least 593 grizzlies in the greater Yellowstone area in the northwest corner of Wyoming.
Grizzlies are also thriving in nearby Montana where approximately 1,000 grizzlies live on the 8 million acres of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem that encompasses western Montana and Glacier National Park. The number of bears in that area now makes the grizzlies candidates for removal from the federal Endangered Species list. The bears were originally listed in that area as “endangered” not due to an actual decrease of the species but for “lack of biological information on its status and habitat requirements,” according to Montana Fish and Parks.
Closer to home, in Idaho, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) declined to upgrade protections in 2014 for grizzlies in Idaho and Northwest Montana, noting that the population is considered “stable.” Populations in the Selkirk Mountains will also not receive special protections from USFWS, with nearly 90 bears in the population.
In addition to high numbers in Yellowstone and Montana and a stable number of grizzlies in Idaho, the total number of grizzlies worldwide is estimated to be above 200,000. This animal is not endangered.
In addition to the questionable statistics regarding the grizzlies’ endangered status, there is also the issue of forcing a population in an unsuitable area. In Montana, where grizzlies have proliferated to the point of attacking people and livestock, there are only 6.8 people per square mile. In Washington State, there is an average of 101.2 people per square mile. This difference in density is incredibly important to consider, as the potential for grizzly-human conflict, grizzly encroachment near homes, into livestock paddocks and other places of human occupation is incredibly high.
The benefits of grizzly introduction of bringing back the “cultural heritage of the North Cascades” and the “opportunity for residents and visitors to again experience grizzly bears in their native habitat” noted in the NPS documents are foolish objectives, ignorant of the realities grizzlies have presented in areas where they are “recovered.”
Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association is categorically opposed to any efforts by the National Parks Service to “recover” a grizzly population in the North Cascades due to the fact the bear is not actually endangered globally or in the West; the fact that grizzlies pose serious safety considerations for residents and visitors to the North Cascades and that the economic detriment that will be caused to farms, ranches and orchards far outweighs any “grizzly experiences” for tourists.