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Feds may restore grizzlies to northern Cascades

A tentative federal proposal to restore grizzly bears in the North Cascades will be explained at public meetings in Washington state next month.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service are taking public comments for an environmental impact statement before deciding whether to take an active role in restoring the grizzly bear to the North Cascades ecosystem.

The first meeting is 5-7:30 p.m. March 3 at the Red Barn in Winthrop. Other meetings will follow in Okanogan, Wenatchee, Cle Elum, Seattle and Bellingham.

Online comments will be accepted through March 26 at parkplanning.nps.gov/NCEG.

The grizzly bear was federally listed as a threatened species in the lower 48 states in 1975. The species was listed as endangered by the state of Washington in 1980.

"The Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan calls on us to fully consider the restoration of the grizzly bear in the North Cascades, and this process will ensure we solicit public input before putting any plan into action," said Robyn Thorson, FWS Pacific regional director.

The North Cascades ecosystem encompasses 9,800 square miles in the United States and 3,800 square miles in British Columbia. The U.S. portion includes North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake and Lake Chelan national recreation areas plus the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie national forests.

A few grizzly bears have recently been sighted in the Canadian part of the ecosystem, but no grizzlies have been confirmed in the United States portion since a hiker documented one with a photo in 2010.