The federal government plays a huge role in local communities and sometimes their actions can go unnoticed or are not widely covered. One such example is the effort to reintroduce grizzly bears into the North Cascades Ecosystem (NCE). This effort has been underway for years and there are many concerns on the part of local communities that must be addressed before any action is taken. This is why I have joined other local leaders in opposing the reintroduction of grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem.
Currently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service are conducting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to determine the impact of reintroducing grizzly bears into the North Cascades. Alternative A of the plan would continue existing management practices and allow the existing population to reproduce over time with continued protections and observation. Alternatives B and C would involve reintroduction of ten and twenty-five bears (respectively) over a couple of years. Alternative D would not set a limit of bears introduced and would, instead, introduce bears on a continual basis until the target population of 200 bears is achieved.
I have heard concerns from constituents and local community leaders about the reintroduction of grizzly bears to our region. These animals can travel many miles a day and there are ongoing worries that the natural ecosystem is not sufficient to support a growing population. This could lead to an increased presence of grizzlies in populated areas putting residents, visitors, and property at risk. Part of these concerns is that our tourism industry, which employs many people and brings economic activity to our region, could be negatively impacted with an increase in the grizzly population.
In an attempt to share these concerns, I have spearheaded a number of efforts. The first of these was in March of 2017 when the Snohomish County Council passed my resolution invoking coordination with the federal agencies leading the EIS. By invoking coordination, we were able to force the federal agencies to the table to hear the concerns of local residents and representatives. I have also submitted multiple comment letters as part of the public comment process sharing our concerns and outlining the potential conflicts with our local planning policies that grizzly reintroduction would create. Despite the local outcry, the Department of the Interior continued to move forward with the plan.
During the recent budget process, U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse from Eastern Washington introduced an amendment that would forbid the Department of the Interior from funding any effort to transport grizzly bears into the North Cascades Ecosystem. I applaud Congressman Newhouse and the Appropriations Committee for adopting this amendment and listening to the concerns of local communities.
While this fight is not over, we have made some great strides in making the local communities' voices heard. I will continue to work on this and other issues to ensure that federal agencies are held accountable to the people that they represent.
Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at (425) 388-3494.