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Biologists Get All the Opinions They Can Bear

A sure-fire way to spark lively opinions in Washington State is to ask about wolves, or right now, grizzly bears. The National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife did just that to find out about public perceptions of a bear restoration proposal.

One idea in the proposal would restore grizzly bears in the North Cascades region where tens of thousands of them once roamed freely until they were hunted down and crowded out by development. The big bears would be returned to roughly 9,000 square miles of remote, mountainous redoubts, mostly on federal land, from the Canadian border down to the Wenatchee area.

Federal agencies held six public meetings earlier this year in that area to gauge public sentiment, and they gathered about 3,000 comments on the plan. Now, biologists are sorting through the comments, trying to categorize them,

One commenter figured that grizzly bears might help control feral hog populations, but another person worried that they'd wipe out fragile salmon stocks. Some of the more outspoken foes of the idea called the public meetings "shams" and a waste of time, arguing that the decision has already been made in secret.

Another anti-bear person summed it up this way - Do not restore grizzly bears in the state of Washington. They are monsters that eat people, particularly women."

There's no indication yet when a decision on the bear reintroduction idea will be made. The draft EIS will be compiled by US Fish and Wildlife by summer 2016.

If you would like to see the comments on the grizzly bear plan, go to: National Park Service website.

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