The Mistaken Mission to Import Grizzly Bears into the North Cascades
(Don’t worry, there won’t be any problems.)
The following are thoughts concerning the importation of grizzlies into the North Cascades.
- Access to the records of the four virtual scoping meetings should be available to the public for review before the public response period is closed. To the best of my knowledge, the scoping meeting transcripts and videos are not available for public review. This seems highly unusual. Do the agencies involved in conducting the four scoping sessions have a legal responsibility to maintain scoping materials for public review? Does the decision to not maintain records of the scoping meetings expand or limit distribution of scoping material to a broader public? How are those interested in reviewing the four scoping meetings able to thoughtfully compare and contrast questions raised at each meeting without access to transcripts of the four virtual scoping meetings? They can’t.
- Washington State Law: In 1995, Washington lawmakers mandated by law that grizzly bears “shall not be transplanted or introduced into the state.” Please specifically address, how the NCNP and U.S F&W services justify continued action that would seem to contradict WA State law?
“Protection of grizzly bears—Limitation on transplantation or introduction—Negotiations with federal and state agencies.”
“The commission shall protect grizzly bears and develop management programs on publicly owned lands that will encourage the natural regeneration of grizzly bears in areas with suitable habitat. Grizzly bears shall not be transplanted or introduced into the state. Only grizzly bears that are native to Washington State may be utilized by the department for management programs. The department is directed to fully participate in all discussions and negotiations with federal and state agencies relating to grizzly bear management and shall fully communicate, support, and implement the policies of this section.”
Have the NPS and FWS fully participated in all discussions and negotiations with federal and state agencies relating to grizzly bear management concerning the importation of grizzlies into the North Cascades? If so, please provide specific documentation of these discussions and negotiations. If not, why not?
- 10(j) management: Scoping material states – “The process will include assessing alternatives to include a 10(j) experimental population designation, which provides land managers with additional options for managing grizzly bears. If adopted, the 10(j) designation would add more certainty, safety, and control for the region.” The general public needs far more information concerning options concerning 10(j) options for “certainty, safety, and control.” Do those responding to the scoping materials have any examples of 10(j) management options for grizzlies used in other areas of the nation?” The NPS provides plenty of information concerning the positive value of importing grizzlies but nothing concerning potential 10(j) management options. It’s like being told, “You WILL be living with grizzlies! Now, how do you want to do it?” The NPS and FWS must provide more information concerning the parameters of 10(j) management options if they hope to receive thoughtful input.
- An additional alternative suggestion: If 10(j) management options are valuable for grizzly management, a “No Action” alternative should be developed that includes 10(j) management guidelines to be activated IF grizzlies naturally migrate into the North Cascades Complex.
- Public Access: Those tuning into the virtual scoping meetings heard plenty of specifics concerning the value of grizzly importation but very few specifics, if any, concerning the value of, or effects upon, public recreation in the North Cascades. A friend wrote recently, “We visited Glacier Park in the 1980s where many hiking trails were closed because of grizzly activity. Some women campers had been recently killed in their tent by a grizzly. A National Park ranger confessed that the grizzlies had been out of control.” Specifically, how does the scoping document or virtual meetings reflect an evaluation of grizzly importation on the potential impact on visitor use of trails and campgrounds throughout this recreational complex? If the scoping document hasn’t thoroughly addressed visitor use concerns, how does the NPS/FWS intend to evaluate this legislatively mandated goal?
- Public Access continued: All management decisions should be founded upon enabling legislation that defines the North Cascades Complex as a “…vast recreational ” Did the NPS/FWS scoping document or the virtual meetings specifically reference public recreation and visitation in light of PL 90-544 and its legislative history (Senate Report 700 and House Report 1870) and the 1984 Wilderness Act? We know that Governor Dan Evans, co-sponsor of the Wilderness Act, testified :“”What the bill would not do is to keep the park visitor shut out of the park. All the existing transportation and development corridors would be excluded from wilderness designation… I believe the parks are there to provide recreation, as well as the preservation of the natural ecosystem.” Do the scoping documents reflect this recreation priority? Specifically, how does the scoping document or virtual meetings reflect an evaluation of grizzly importation on the potential impact on visitor use of trails and campgrounds throughout this recreational complex? It would seem the scoping documents and meetings should have included considerable reference and discussion concerning the effects of the introduction of grizzlies into the North Cascades. Again, all management decisions should be founded upon legislation that defines the North Cascades Complex as a “…vast recreational complex.”
- More public access questions: If the scoping document hasn’t thoroughly introduced visitor use concerns, how do the NPS/FWS intend to evaluate this legislatively mandated goal? The NPS and FWS should include an Itemized list of trail and campground closures in all Park areas where grizzly bears are located. Additionally, the NPS should provide an itemized list of trail and campground closures in the North Cascades Complex due to black bear activity. Additionally, knowing that the NPs has been challenged concerning the a lack of minorities participating in the National Park experience, how does the NPS and FWS plan to gauge effects of grizzly importation upon minority visitation into the North Cascades Complex?
- Public Safety: Park managers understand that significant public concern exists concerning public safety in areas of grizzly activity and publish a Bear Safety page on their website. (https://www.nps.gov/noca/learn/nature/bear-safety.htm) This webpage provides a list of actions to take when in the vicinity of black or grizzly bears. Reading this page offers little comfort when considering the goal of a grizzly population of up to 200 bears in addition to the already sizable black bear population in the complex. During the virtual meeting I attended, a question was asked concerning grizzlies and hiker/camper/visitor safety. The wildlife expert spoke about how we already live in an area that is dangerous. “Cougars, black bears, wolves, and other predatory wildlife species are already here.” Did this statement assuage public safety concerns? I think not. We were also told that there will be extensive educational outreach to inform the public how to avoid encountering grizzlies in the first place and, secondly, just how you should react if charged by these huge clawed, apex predators rushing you with Olympic sprinter speed because YOU surprised them. One suggestion was that hikers should make noise on the trail to let the grizzly know a human is in the area. Making noise on the trail in a wilderness is not exactly why people hike in the wilderness in the first place. Maybe bells work. Maybe not. We were told bear spray could be helpful – but don’t spray into the wind should a charging bear attack. The bear spray will just cause you a great deal of irritation and blind you before the grizzly rips into you. I guess the hikers could move (or ask the grizzly to move) into a position where the bear spray will be blown effectively towards Mr. or Mrs. Grizzly. Finally, we were assured that no law-breaking bears – those bears with criminal history – would be imported to the area. All in all, when it came to a discussion of public safety, participants were treated to a feast of equivocal euphemisms. In the future, an itemize list of all grizzly attacks on humans or livestock in or around Park Service administered areas is necessary if public safety issues are to be addressed. Also, an evaluation of the effects of an eventual population of 200 resident grizzlies will have upon a burgeoning number of PCT hikers. Will the presence of 200 grizzlies add or detract from the nation’s populace who wish to hike the PCT?
- Historical generalizations concerning the history of the North Cascades being suitable habitat for a significant number of grizzlies – A friend wrote, “WHAT and WHERE is the historic documentation that supports the view huge numbers of Grizzly Bears were hunted-out of the North Central part of WA-State. Please present this information at any public meetings and in your EIS documentation. If historical material is found that counters this premise, the documentation the final EIS presents should be considered bogus and presented as something to bamboozle Stehekin residents and those who live in the affected regions in order to please those who live elsewhere that like the idea of Grizzly Bears in the NCNP. Additionally, it will certainly spell the death-knell for Stehekin property owners hope of re-opening the road to Cottonwood Campground!”
- Stehekin’s Upper Valley Road: How does the scoping document address an eventual population of 200 grizzlies as it pertains to the reopening of the Upper Stehekin Valley Road to improve visitor access to campgrounds and trails above Tumwater Campground?
- Economic Impacts: Without a doubt an eventual population of 200 grizzlies will have an economic impact upon Stehekin Valley businesses, as well as, businesses of communities surrounding the North Cascade Complex. Visitors to Yellowstone may well find the presence of grizzlies to have a positive impact upon their visitor experience and local businesses will be the beneficiaries of such visitation, however, Yellowstone visitors most often view grizzlies from a road and can retreat to the safety of their automobiles should there be a grizzly confrontation. Hikers and campers in the North Cascades will have no benefit of a motor vehicle safety pod on the narrow trails of the North Cascades Complex should there be a grizzly attack. The 2017 EIS contained the following statement concerning the effects of grizzlies in the North Cascades: “As grizzly bears increase in number over time and begin to use habitat over a larger area of the NCE, the potential for humans to encounter them would exist over a greater geographical range, which could provide benefits for those visitors hoping to experience grizzly bears in the natural environment, while dissuading some other visitors from recreating in the NCE.” This statement is nothing other than an insipid bit of verbiage posing as reasoned analysis. This EIS evaluation of the impact of grizzlies on visitor use is virtually useless. Stehekin’s economic vitality and the ability to serve the visiting public will be impacted if an eventual 200 grizzlies migrate throughout in the North Cascades. The effects upon Stehekin’s Economics are highly localized and no generalized platitudes should be considered as applicable to this unique area. The development of an eventual EIS must include meetings with Stehekin business owners and those living in communities bordering the North Cascades Complex to gauge the potential economic impact upon these businesses.
- The effects of future wildfires: NPS managers are well aware of the danger of wildfires erupting in the North Cascade Complex. Wildfires will impact grizzly habitat. The greater size of inevitable wildfires, the greater impact upon wildlife habitat including food resources. Specifically, what are fire management guidelines for wilderness areas? Will the NPS call in firefighting resources to protect grizzly habitat? What will be the predicted outcome of wildfires be on grizzly migration? Likely, this is a difficult question to evaluate. We can hope wildfires are small whether grizzlies are in the environment or not, however, extensive wildfires will likely have an enormous impact on a grizzly population and their migration patterns.
- Additional regulations should grizzlies be imported: Those responding to scoping documents or the inevitable EIS have little knowledge of laws, rules, and regulations associated with the importation of grizzlies into the North Cascades. Please inform the public of any changes in regulations or usage options of the North Cascades due to the importation of grizzlies.
Finally, having to respond to another grizzly scoping exercise with an EIS to follow leaves many in this community wondering, when will this end? Congressman Newhouse summarizes thoughts expressed by many in a letter to the NPS and FWS.
euphemism| – a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing
equivocation| – a noun the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself; prevarication: I say this without equivocation.