The forested mountains in and around North Cascades National Park in north central Washington state have long been considered prime habitat for threatened grizzly bears, so environmental groups are upset the Trump administration scrapped plans to reintroduce the apex predators there, the AP reports. US Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt on Tuesday announced his agency will not conduct the environmental impact statement needed to move forward with the idea. That drew rebukes from conservation groups, who have worked for decades to grow the tiny population of about 10 grizzlies in the vast North Cascades. "Grizzlies have been an integral part of the North Cascades ecosystem for 20,000 years,'' said Rob Smith, an official at the National Parks Conservation Association.
"This purely political decision ignores science, Park Service recommendations and overwhelming public support," he added. He noted that former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke supported grizzly recovery efforts there before leaving the Trump administration. In 2015, under President Obama, the federal government began an environmental impact statement planning process on restoring the bears in the North Cascades. Grizzly bears play a vital environmental role in the park and the broader ecosystem, Smith said. But there have been no verified sightings in the region in several years, raising concerns about their survival. While Bernhardt pointed to local opposition to introducing bears into the North Cascades, Smith said most Washington residents have supported the proposal in the past.
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