The North Cascades Ecosystem is one of the largest contiguous blocks of Federal land remaining in the lower 48 states, encompassing approximately 9,800 square miles within north central Washington. Stretching from the US-Canada border south to Interstate 90, it includes all of the North Cascades National Park, and most of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests. About 88% of the recovery area is Federal land, 7% State land, about 3% private lands and 1% municipal and county lands. Approximately 43% of the recovery area is within the NCNP or designated wilderness areas. Over 57 (60)% has no motorized access. The North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Area is directly adjacent to the Canadian portion of the ecosystem. The Canadian government considers the grizzly bears in that portion of the ecosystem to be the most endangered population in Canada.
There are currently believed to be fewer than 5-10 grizzly bears in the U.S. portion of the ecosystem. The 2012 estimate for the Canadian portion was six. Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the grizzly bears in the U.S. portion are warranted for listing as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act, that change in status remains precluded by other priorities and they are listed as threatened. Because of their small numbers, however, they are widely believed to be the most at-risk grizzly bear population in the U.S. today.
The North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Chapter, completed in 1997, provides a shopping list of recovery activities for the many Federal and State agencies involved in grizzly bear recovery in the North Cascades. The North Cascades Grizzly Bear Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear committee meets twice yearly to coordinate grizzly bear recovery efforts. Substantial work has been done to identify and map bear management zones, habitat types, and potential bear/human conflict areas and to provide bear-resistant food containers and other sanitation devices within the recovery area. The Subcommittee is noted for the diligence and innovation of their public outreach and education efforts and for their close coordination with counterparts working to recovery grizzly bears in the Canadian portion of the ecosystem. You can find more information about this ecosystem on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery pages. On this page you will find links to the Federal Register announcement of the “Initiation of 5-Year Reviews of Seven Wildlife Species and Two Plant Species in the Mountain-Prairie Region,” and the “Species Assessment and Listing Priority Assignment Form.”
An Environmental Impact Statement is underway to evaluate alternatives for how to restore a viable grizzly bear population in the North Cascades Recovery Area. More information is available on the National Park Service website. It is anticipated the EIS will be completed in early 2018.