Grizzly bears once had the widest distribution of any bears in the world, including throughout Cascadia. But due to large scale habitat loss and related human conflict and decades of persecution, grizzly numbers and range have been reduced by 98% in the continental US. This iconic species is culturally and ecologically significant, particularly to indigenous communities in the Cascades and throughout western US and Canada.
Grizzly bears feed on a wide variety of plants and animals, and rely on large intact interconnected habitats. Because of their large home ranges and wide variety of habitat needs, grizzly bears are considered an excellent umbrella species, the conservation of which benefits a large number of other species; and an indicator of habitat quality and a range of ecosystem benefits, like huckleberry distribution and clean water.
British Columbia has an estimated half of Canada’s grizzlies, but their range continues to contract in most of southern BC due to ongoing habitat fragmentation and associated human conflict. Washington’s North Cascades and BC’s Manning Provincial Park offer high quality habitat, but likely have fewer than 10 individual grizzly bears remaining. Cooperative recovery planning and related actions are needed on both sides of the Washington-BC border in recognition of adjacent habitats and the security needs of grizzly bears.
The Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative recognizes grizzly bears as a conservation target in its Strategic Conservation Framework, and Washington’s State Wildlife Action Plan identifies them as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Due to the importance of the species to our landscape and the high risk to Cascadia’s remaining bears our Partner Forum has selected grizzly bears as a priority issue that we foster coordination and information sharing on. Last year we commissioned a vulnerability assessment for our North Cascades ecosytem population that identified strategies to increase the resiliency of our population. Meanwhile, the National Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service are underway with an environmental planning effort to explore options for grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades. In British Columbia grizzly bears were recently listed as a species of concern under the Species at Risk act, requiring management coordination to prevent further loss.
For more information on Cascadia grizzly bears, habitat management, and recovery related efforts:
- A Synthesis of Historical and Recent Reports of Grizzly Bears in the North Cascades Region (PDF)
- BC’s Ministry of Environment – Grizzly Bear Managmement
- Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee – North Cascades Subcommittee
- US Fish and Wildlife Service webpage on the North Cascades Ecosystem and webpage on grizzly bears
- St’at’imc Government Services – St’alhaem (Grizzly bear) Recovery Project
- Video: Grizzly bears of the Pitt River (in the Cascadia landscape)
- Video: Time for the grizzly? (A video exploring restoration of grizzly bears in the North Cascades Recovery Zone, pulling examples from other landscapes.)
- Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative
- US Forest Service fact sheet on how the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest land management plan revision would interact with grizzly bears habitat management.
- Maps of grizzly bear management units in Cascadia: Grizzly bear population units in British Columbia (pdf) and North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone in Washington (pdf).
- December 2017 North Cascades Grizzly Bear Vulnerability Assessment produced by Washington Conservation Science Institute and US Fish and WIldlife at the request of the Cascadia Partner Forum (pdf).