SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash.— The Center for Biological Diversity initiated a lawsuit today to challenge the Trump administration’s recent termination of a program aimed at restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades in Washington. In the past decade, biologists have documented only four grizzly bears in the region.
Today’s notice follows the July 10 official announcement that the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ended a program aimed at restoring bears to the North Cascades. The program would have involved transporting grizzly bears into the North Cascades from other, more populated areas.
“The swift termination of this crucial program to recover grizzly bears in the North Cascades defies science and law,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center. “If this program isn’t restored, grizzly bears are likely to completely disappear from the Pacific Northwest.”
The notice of intent to file a lawsuit alleges that the cancellation of the program violates the Endangered Species Act, which requires federal agencies to conserve listed species. Grizzly bears in the contiguous United States were listed as a threatened species under the Act in 1975.
The North Cascades is one of the largest wild areas in the lower 48 states, encompassing more than 95,000 square miles in north-central Washington centered on North Cascades National Park. It also includes large areas of surrounding national forest. According to scientists, the area contains prime habitat that could support approximately 280 grizzly bears.
“Grizzly bears once thrived in the North Cascades, and we hope this lawsuit pushes the agencies to bring the bears back,” said Zaccardi. “Halting efforts to restore bears to this area ensures the local extinction of grizzlies in Washington.”
Grizzly bears historically ranged from Alaska to Mexico, with an estimated 50,000 bears occupying the western half of the contiguous United States. With European settlement of the American West, they were shot, poisoned and trapped to near extinction.
Today fewer than 2,000 grizzlies are found in five isolated populations in the northern Rocky Mountains and North Cascades. The North Cascades represents one of six primary recovery areas identified by the Fish and Wildlife Service. A sustainable population there is necessary for grizzly bear recovery in the contiguous United States.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service have 60 days to respond to today’s notice of intent to sue.