North Cascades Recovery Area

For a  larger version of the North Cascades Ecosystem map, click on the image. Credit: North Cascades National Park

The following information is from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s website

The North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Area is one of the largest contiguous blocks of Federal land remaining in the lower 48 states, encompassing approximately 9, 565 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 Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forests.

About 85% of the recovery area is Federal land, 5% State land and about 10% private lands. Approximately 41% of the recovery area is within the NCNP or designated wilderness areas while over 70% 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 bears in that portion of the ecosystem to be the most endangered grizzly bear population in Canada.

There are currently believed to be fewer than 20 grizzly bears in the U.S. portion of the ecosystem, with perhaps that many more in the Canadian portion. 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 in identifying and mapping bear management zones, habitat types, and potential bear/human conflict areas and in providing 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.

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To see a map of the north-eastern portion of the North Cascades Recovery Ecosystem in Okanogan County, click here. To see a map of the north-western portion of the North Cascades recovery ecosystem in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, click here.

On April 18, 2007, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced the initiation of a 5-year review of grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) (as listed in the lower 48 States excluding the Greater Yellowstone Area population) and 8 other species (72 FR 19549). We conducted reviews to ensure that our classification of each species as threatened or endangered on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants is accurate. A 5-year review is an assessment of the best scientific and commercial data available at the time of the review.

While study of this very rugged and remote habitat indicates that this ecosystem is capable of supporting a self-sustaining population of grizzlies, only a “remnant” population remains, incapable of enduring without active recovery efforts.  The population is estimated to be fewer than 20 animals within the 9,500 mi2 North Cascades recovery zone (limited to the U.S.) and the bears in this ecosystem are warranted for endangered status.  In 1991, the Fish and Wildlife Service first issued a warranted but precluded finding to uplist the North Cascades recovery zone population to endangered status.  As noted in the recently published  Annual Notice of Findings on Resubmitted Petitions, this uplisting action continues to be precluded by higher priority listing actions (see the species assessment form for additional information on why reclassification is warranted but precluded). The Service assigned a listing priority number of 3 for this population because of very low population numbers as evidenced by continuing lack of credible sightings and little success identifying animals through hair snagging and genetic analysis.

Threats to the species in this recovery zone include incomplete habitat protection measures (motorized access management), small population size, and population fragmentation resulting in genetic isolation.  Information indicating isolation of the population in British Columbia and the United States limits the chance of natural recovery given the small population size.  Population augmentation may be the only way to recover this population.

The population in adjacent British Columbia is estimated to be less than 25 to 30 grizzly bears.  A draft British Columbia recovery plan for that area recommends habitat protection measures and population augmentation on the Canadian side of the border.

Current efforts toward recovery are focusing on habitat protection through a strategy of no net loss of core habitat, information and education efforts regarding grizzly bears and their habitat, and enhanced sanitation for proper garbage and food storage in bear habitat.  Information and education programs must continue to inform people about grizzly bear biology, and techniques to avoid conflicts when living or recreating in bear habitat.  An EIS process is necessary to involve the public in examining a range of alternatives to recover this population, including population augmentation. (Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee)

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