Feds might reintroduce grizzly bears to North Cascades in Washington

Last sighting there was in 1996

By Michelle Lou, CNN
iStock/skibreck

(CNN) - The US government might reintroduce the grizzly bear to the North Cascades area in northwest Washington and has re-opened the proposal for public comment.

"There were some members of the public and elected officials that requested additional opportunity to comment on it," National Park Service spokeswoman Denise Shultz said.

The proposal seeks to restore the grizzly population in the ecosystem to 200. The public comment period opened Thursday and will run to October 24. It was previously open from January through April 2017.

The grizzly was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in July 1975. The last time a grizzly bear was spotted on the US side of the North Cascade was in 1996, Shultz said. The Canada side had a sighting in 2012.

In the US, grizzly bears are active in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington.

By reintroducing grizzly bears to the North Cascade, the National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service hope to avoid their permanent loss, restore biodiversity, and support recovery of the species, according to the restoration plan draft.

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned in December, endorsed the recovery and had restarted the process. He also had allowed agencies to review public comments previously received.

The federal government does not have a deadline for the reintroduction, Shultz said. It will depend on how many new comments are submitted.

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