Little comfort from Interior secretary on grizzly reintroduction, Wagoner says

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s appearance in Sedro-Wooley Friday offered little comfort for those concerned about the reintroduction of grizzly bears in the North Cascades, said Sen. Keith Wagoner.

Zinke told reporters that work on an environmental impact statement is continuing, and that he expects a result by the end of the year. The return of the grizzly to the area surrounding North Cascades National Park, urged by tribes and environmental groups, is strongly opposed by landowners, farmers and ranchers for safety and commercial reasons.

“For those of us who think this is a terrible idea and actually live here, the secretary’s comments Friday were unsettling,” said Wagoner, R-Sedro-Wooley. “We’d been hoping he would announce Interior is dropping the plan. But not only is the effort continuing, the secretary provided scant insight about the decision his agency will make.

“I was left with no clear understanding of the secretary’s opinion on reintroduction, except that he seems to defer to the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as experts on the matter.

“I want to leave no ambiguity. I am 100 percent opposed to reintroducing this top-tier predator into our area. Grizzlies that are already present in the region should remain protected and unmolested, but there is no reason to artificially increase their numbers by importing bears from elsewhere.

“Washington state law states that ‘grizzly bears shall not be transplanted or introduced into the state.’ A federal agency may be able to sidestep state law, but it will clearly be a case of doing something because you can, not because you should. As a representative of the people of the 39th Legislative District, I will continue to oppose this flawed top-down policy.”