WENATCHEE — Almost no one seemed enthused by the idea of transplanting grizzly bears into the North Cascades during a county meeting on Tuesday.
About 30 people showed up to the public meeting hosted by the Chelan County Commission. It was an opportunity for constituents to tell the commissioners what they thought about the North Cascades National Park Service’s draft plans to possibly relocate grizzly bears into Washington.
One person said they might support relocating grizzly bears.
“We would like to see the grizzly bear recover in the United States,” Chelan County Commissioner Doug England said. “We just feel like things have changed and this location is no longer safe for us or safe for the bears with an introduction.”
Some of the concerns the commissioners raised were that grizzly bears could migrate farther than the draft analysis stated, England said. It also didn’t account for the increasing population of Washington state or sufficiently address potential conflicts with agriculture.
England also questioned whether grizzly bears ever did exist in the Northern Cascades as scientists have been unable to locate any for almost 30 years.
County staff made a printout of a grizzly bear to show its size. The silhouette loomed over the proceedings with an open maw displaying large canines and claws. England then played a video of two bears fighting in the middle of a road to show that bears are not stopped from migrating across roads.
Commissioner Kevin Overbay said the setup wasn’t made to generate an opinion in members of the public.
“There was no intent to dissuade or anything like that,” Overbay said. “You had the gentleman here who says, ‘I’m not opposed to doing this. I actually support it, but I understand the complexities of it.’ We wanted everyone to have an opportunity to take a look at this.”
Gordon Congdon of Wenatchee came out to support the reintroduction of grizzly bears, he said.
“I have seen grizzly bears in Alaska and Canada,” Congdon said. “I enjoy seeing them and photographing them. But this is a different situation; there are different issues here and it is exceedingly complex.”
The Pacific Crest Trail runs right through some of the areas where grizzly bears might be reintroduced, said Don Zones of Cashmere. Thousands of hikers come through that region each year benefiting communities with their business. It would be a shame to impact that industry, he said.
“I’m just ill to my stomach when I think of planting grizzlies in this beautiful hiking area,” Zones said. “If I hike through (Glacier National Park in Montana), I know that is an established bear area and I’m taking a risk.”