The North Cascades Ecosystem, or Recovery Zone, 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, this ecosystem includes all of the North Cascades National Park, and most of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests. About 88 percent of the recovery area is federal land, 7 percent state land, about 3 percent private lands and 1 percent municipal and county lands. Approximately 43 percent of the recovery area is within the North Cascades National Park or designated wilderness areas. Sixty-percent has no motorized access.
This 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.
The overall population status of grizzly bears in the North Cascades is unknown; however it is highly unlikely that the ecosystem contains a viable grizzly bear population. There have been only four confirmed detections of grizzly bears in the greater ecosystem in the past 10 years, all of which occurred in British Columbia and may comprise only two individuals. There has been no confirmed evidence of grizzly bears within the ecosystem in the U.S. since 1996.
The 2012 estimate for the Canadian portion was six grizzly bears. Because of their small numbers, they are widely believed to be the most at-risk grizzly bear population in the U.S.
The North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Chapter, completed in 1997, provides a list of recovery activities for the many federal and state agencies involved in grizzly bear recovery in the North Cascades.
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.
For more information about this ecosystem, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recover page.
This 7-minute film is about the elusive North Cascades grizzly bear and is narrated by ecologist and filmmaker Chris Morgan. It includes appearances by many Washington State residents who share their opinions of bears, and help bust some myths. The film includes footage of the North Cascades, and bears in Alaska where Morgan has hosted several films for PBS Nature, the BBC, and others.
Director, Executive Producer & Narrator – Chris Morgan
Writers – Chris Morgan, Aaron Straight
Producers – Brenda Phillips, Chris Morgan
Creative Manager – Aaron Straight
Directors of Photography – Brenda Phillips, Aaron Straight
Editors – Doug Lyons, Brenda Phillips
A Chris Morgan Wildlife Production.
The North Cascades Grizzly Bear Subcommittee meets biannually 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 within the recovery area.