Associated Press File
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse is asking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reopen a public comment period on plans to reintroduce grizzly bears in the North Cascades so that “local residents who were ignored can be heard.”
Newhouse, whose district encompasses part of the North Cascades, sent a letter to Zinke on April 12, warning of “grave impacts” to Northcentral Washington residents if grizzlies are brought in and imploring Zinke to “stop ignoring the local community.”
The Washington state Republican said his constituents were disrespectfully treated in the previous process and felt their concerns were not taken seriously.
At a public forum in Okanogan County, “many residents were not allowed to express their concerns and were treated in an unacceptable manner by the federal employees conducting the session,” Newhouse wrote.
Zinke’s March 23 announcement of support of grizzly bear recovery in the North Cascades “flies in the face” of his stated goals of “restoring trust and being a good neighbor,” Newhouse said.
“Just as my constituents have consistently expressed their steadfast opposition to this proposal, I will continue to stand in opposition to a plan that threatens the way of life in Northcentral Washington,” Newhouse wrote to Zinke.
Grizzlies will negatively impact ranchers, recreationists and rural economies and their reintroduction violates state law, he wrote.
Newhouse told Capital Press that he doesn’t know why Zinke supports grizzlies in the North Cascades when so many of his other decisions have been on the opposite end of the spectrum. Zinke has said he grew up in Montana where grizzlies are iconic, Newhouse said.
North Cascades National Park Superintendent Karen Taylor-Goodrich has said the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will make the final decision on North Cascade grizzlies at year’s end and will not need Zinke’s approval.
Newhouse said he believes Zinke has the authority to give him what he’s asking for so that people can make their comments and be heard. He said he hopes agencies listen.
The last confirmed grizzly sighting in the North Cascades was in 1996 and even the draft Environmental Impact Statement found it’s highly unlikely the area contains a viable grizzly population, he said. That raises serious reservations about the statements being used to justify reintroduction, he said.