More than 200 local residents attended a public comment session in northern Washington hosted by the Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Parks Service (NPS), with roughly 50 speaking in opposition of the federal grizzly bear proposal and just six voicing their support.Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.,who represents local communities, was among the speakers voicing concerns about the plan's potential consequences.
"As a farmer, I worry not only about the bears destroying my crops, but for the safety and well-being of myself, my family, and my on-farm hands," Newhouse remarked during the session. "It is clear you all know that grizzlies can and probably will move out of the zone in which you drop them in, yet rather than letting common sense prevail, are continuing to push forward with this dangerous plan."
"So tell me, what is the agency’s plan for dealing with crop loss and livestock depredation that is inevitable from the introduction of these predators? What is the timeline for issuing lethal permits? And how much will citizens have to lose before they can defend themselves from this predator in their backyard?" he continued.
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., the chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, speaks in opposition of the Biden administration plan to release grizzly bears near Washington communities during a public comment session last week.(Courtesy of Rep. Dan Newhouse)
In late September, the NPS and FWS proposed the rule and draft environmental impact statement opening the door to release the apex predator in North Cascades National Park in northern Washington along the U.S.-Canada border. The proposal was cheered by left-wing eco groups but criticized by local lawmakers like Newhouse and residents.
Under the proposal, the federal government would release up to seven grizzly bears annually into the North Cascades ecosystem over the course of the next five to 10 years. The federal government's overarching goal would be toestablish a grizzly bear populationof roughly 200 bears in the coming decades.
"There's not the habitat up there for the grizzly bear. There never has been and there never will be," one resident said during the comment session last week, according to video obtained by Fox News Digital. "So, you're going to put grizzly bears there, what are they going to do? They're going to get right out in the winter. They're going to go right down in Mazama and they're going to go down in the rest of the area because they're not going to stay up there. So, I'm opposed to it completely."
"If you're not willing to accept responsibility for what goes down in this county from the actions that you take, you have no business taking those actions," another resident said, addressing the federal officials in attendance.
An estimated 200 Washington residents participated in the in-person comment session hosted by federal officials to hear feedback regarding the proposal to release grizzly bears in a nearby forest area.(Courtesy of Rep. Dan Newhouse)
The federal plan released in September includes three options, two that would involve actively restoring populations of the threatened grizzly bear species and one "no action" alternative that would maintain current management practices. As part of the announcement, the public is invited to comment on the proposed actions through mid-November.
Hugh Morrison, the regional FWS director, said grizzly bears arepart of the region's heritageand restoring them could be done in a way that ensures communities, residents and animals "can all coexist peacefully."
According to the NPS, Grizzly bears occupied the North Cascades and served as an "essential part of the ecosystem" for thousands of years. However, in the 20th century, as a result ofaggressive hunting practices, the species was driven into near extinction and the last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear in the North Cascades ecosystem was in 1996.
"Nobody needs grizzlies, nobody needs wolves," another resident added during the event last week. "And the thing we need even less than that is the Department of Fish and Wildlife. These guys know nothing about fish, they don't care about wildlife. All they want to do is ruin the most important people, which is farmers and ranchers who grow our food. There's no reason for these people, there's no reason for grizzly bears."
"If any grizzly bear comes around my place, I'm shooting it," he said.
The Biden administration proposed a plan on Sept. 29 to release up to seven grizzly bears annually into the North Cascades ecosystem in northern Washington over the course of the next five to 10 years.(Getty Images)
Another resident, an 80-year-old man who said he frequently hunts in the area, said the federal officials who proposed the grizzly release plan are "super book smart, but dumber than hell" when it comes to on-the-ground conditions facing citizens.
While the plan would release grizzly bears near communities, according to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, unintentionally or intentionally killing a grizzly bear in the state can result in massive fines and penalties since the species is listed as federally threatened and state-listed as endangered.
"We have previously provided extensive comments opposing grizzly bear reintroduction into our local communities," the commissioners of Chelan County, Washington, which is located near North Cascades, wrote to the NPS in December. "We continue to oppose grizzly bear reintroduction given the likely negative impacts to public safety, economic development, recreation opportunities and the overall livelihood of our rural communities."
"The federal agencies leading this effort have generally failed to address these concerns and have failed to engage in any meaningful way Chelan County and other neighboring counties in the proposed grizzly bear restoration area," they added in their letter.
A grizzly bear is photographed at the at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana. While grizzly bears — which are apex predators — are classified as a threatened species in Washington, they are not in danger of extinction.(Trevor Hughes / USA TODAY NETWORK)
Plans to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades dates back to the Obama administration. Then, after significant state opposition led by Newhouse, the Trump administration concluded that grizzly bears would not be restored in the ecosystem.