Recovery efforts for grizzly bears in the US North Cascades highlight opportunity to protect critically endangered populations in British Columbia
29 March, 2018 (Vancouver, BC) — A surprise announcement from US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is renewing hopes for grizzly bear recovery in northern Washington state, part of the Coast to Cascades region that extends into British Columbia.
Last week, Secretary Zinke pledged his government’s support for restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades region, calling species recovery the “American conservation ethic come to life” in a statement. The unexpected announcement delighted conservation groups in the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative (C2C) on both sides of the border who have long advocated for restoring threatened populations of this iconic species.
Several grizzly bear populations are at serious risk of localized extinction in southwest BC, including the North Cascades Population which once straddled the Cascades Mountains both in BC and Washington state.
“Secretary Zinke’s announcement is promising news for the future of grizzly bears in this part of the world,” said Joe Scott, International Programs Director for Conservation Northwest, the lead US partner in C2C. “We have nearly 10,000 square miles of protected habitat on the US side of the border as an official Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone – one of only six in the lower 48 states. The next step is to complete the recovery planning process and move a small number of bears into the North Cascades.”
In BC, the story is slightly different but dire. “Scientists speculate that perhaps only a half dozen grizzly bears remain on the BC side of the North Cascades,” said Johnny Mikes, C2C Field Director. “There is good habitat in and around Manning Park, so that is the logical place to finally initiate recovery of the North Cascades population in BC. Given that Manning Park abuts the border, Secretary Zinke’s announcement regarding restoring the grizzly bears on the US side makes us more optimistic about their future in both BC and Washington.”
In 2004 the BC Minister of Environment approved a plan to recover the grizzly bear population. However, as the BC Auditor General pointed out in her 2017 report, this plan was never implemented despite the identified high conservation priority.
“We are pleased that the current BC Government’s response to the Auditor General’s recommendations includes the development of grizzly bear management plans ‘where they are needed.’ A recovery plan exists for the North Cascades Population: we know the need is high, now it’s time for action,” added Mikes, noting that the International Union for Conservation of Nature rates this BC population as Critically Endangered.
Grizzly bears once roamed from the Yukon to Mexico, but habitat loss and persecution by humans has caused their extirpation from the southern reaches of their range. Without successful recovery action in the North Cascades, the southern edge of localized extinction may may move further north into BC.
For interviews, contact:
Joe Scott, International Program Director (Conservation Northwest)
360.671.9950 x 111 (o) or 360.319.7056 (c)
Johnny Mikes, Field Director (Coast to Cascades)
604-932-3811 (o) or 604-905-9630 (c)