[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 33 (Thursday, February 19, 2015)]
[Pages 8894-8895]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-03504]



Fish and Wildlife Service

National Park Service


North Cascades Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan/
Environmental Impact Statement, Washington

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: The National Park Service (NPS) and the Fish and Wildlife 
Service (FWS) are jointly preparing a North Cascades Ecosystem Grizzly 
Bear Restoration Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (Plan/EIS) to 
determine how to restore the grizzly bear to the North Cascades 
ecosystem (NCE), a portion of its historical range.

DATES: The FWS and NPS request that comments be submitted by March 23, 
2015, or 15 days after the last public open house, whichever is later. 
Open houses will be announced in local media. For more information on 
submitting public comments, see How To Provide Comments, under Public 

ADDRESSES: Information will be available for public review online at 
http://parkplanning.nps.gov/NCEG; in the Office of the Superintendent, 
810 State Route 20, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284 (360-854-7200, telephone); 
and in the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond Dr. SE., 
Suite 102, Lacey, WA 98503 (360-753-9440).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Denise Shultz, Public Information 
Officer, North Cascades National Park Service Complex, 810 State Route 
20, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284 (360-854-7302, telephone), or Brent 
Lawrence, Public Affairs Specialist, FWS Pacific Regional Office, 911 
NE 11th Ave., Portland, OR 97232 (503-231-6211).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pursuant to the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C) (NEPA), the National Park 
Service (NPS) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are jointly 
preparing a North Cascades Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan and 
Environmental Impact Statement (Plan/EIS) to determine how to restore 
the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) to the North Cascades 
ecosystem (NCE), a portion of its historical range.


    Situated in the core of the North Cascades Ecosystem (NCE), the 
North Cascades National Park Complex is surrounded by more than 2.6 
million contiguous acres of federally designated wilderness, including 
protected lands and de facto wilderness in British Columbia, Canada. 
The United States portion of the NCE is contiguous with habitat north 
of the international border in British Columbia, Canada, but isolated 
from other grizzly bear populations in both the United States and 
    Research indicates that this wilderness landscape is capable of 
supporting a self-sustaining grizzly bear population. However, there 
has only been one observation of a solitary bear during the past 10 
years. Given the low number of grizzly bears, very slow reproductive 
rate, and other recovery constraints, grizzly bears in the NCE are

[[Page 8895]]

the most at-risk grizzly bear population in the United States today.
    The FWS recently reaffirmed (78 FR 70104, November 22, 2013) that 
the NCE grizzly bear warrants uplisting from threatened to endangered 
under the Endangered Species Act (ESA, 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). 
However, a change in listing status remains precluded by lack of 
funding and the Service's need to make listing determinations for other 
species not yet protected under the ESA. The main threat to grizzly 
bears in this recovery zone is a small population size, with resulting 
demographic and genetic risks. Natural recovery in the NCE is 
challenged by the absence of verified reproduction, as well as 
isolation from any contiguous population in British Columbia, Canada, 
and the United States.
    A nationwide Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan was finalized by the FWS in 
1982, and updated in 1993. The NCE recovery plan chapter was finalized 
in 1997. Current recovery efforts in the United States are focused on 
limiting human-caused mortality, protecting habitat by emphasizing no 
net loss of core habitat, providing information and education efforts 
regarding grizzly bears and their habitat, and enhancing sanitation by 
enforcing proper garbage and food storage in bear habitat. Education 
programs continue to inform people about grizzly bear biology and 
techniques to avoid conflicts when living or recreating in bear 

Restoration Plan and Environmental Impact Statement Draft Purpose, 
Need, and Objectives

    The NCE recovery plan chapter identifies four priority actions: (1) 
Develop a strategy for implementation of the NCE chapter; (2) develop 
an intensive ongoing educational program to provide information about 
grizzly bears and grizzly bear recovery to the public; (3) initiate the 
NEPA process; and (4) conduct an intensive research and monitoring 
effort to determine grizzly bear population size and distribution, 
habitat use, and home ranges in the NCE. In accordance with the NCE 
recovery plan chapter, the NPS and the FWS are initiating a NEPA 
planning process as joint lead agencies for grizzly bear restoration in 
the U.S. portion of the NCE. The Washington Department of Fish and 
Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service will 
serve as cooperating agencies. The following are the draft purpose, 
need, and objectives for the NCE Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan/EIS:


    The purpose of this Plan/EIS is to determine how to restore the 
grizzly bear to the North Cascades ecosystem (NCE), a portion of its 
historical range.


    Since the NCE grizzly bears are at risk of local extinction, action 
is needed at this time to:
     Avoid the permanent loss of grizzly bears in the NCE;
     Contribute to the restoration of biodiversity of the 
ecosystem for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future 
generations of people;
     Enhance the probability of long-term survival and 
conservation of grizzly bears within the lower 48 States and thereby 
contribute to overall grizzly bear recovery; and
     Support the eventual removal of the grizzly bear from the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.


    The objectives of this Plan/EIS are to:
     Restore a grizzly bear population as part of the natural 
and cultural heritage of the North Cascades.
     Provide Pacific Northwest residents and visitors with the 
opportunity to again experience grizzly bears in their native habitat.
     Seek to support Tribal cultural and spiritual values, as 
well as environmental and natural resource objectives related to the 
grizzly bear.
     Expand outreach efforts to inform and involve the public 
and build understanding about grizzly bear recovery.

Environmental Impact Statement Alternatives and Their Impacts

    As part of the planning and EIS process, the NPS and FWS will 
evaluate various approaches for the restoration of a grizzly bear 
population to the NCE. Preliminary alternatives to be considered in the 
Plan/EIS include the no action alternative (passive restoration) as 
well as active restoration alternatives, including moving grizzly bears 
from other U.S. and/or Canadian populations into the NCE as either 
threatened or experimental 10(j) populations under the ESA.
    The Plan/EIS will evaluate the effects of a range of alternatives, 
including potential impacts to: Rare or unusual vegetation, wildlife 
and habitat, soundscapes, wilderness (including a minimum requirements 
analysis), visitor use and experience, socioeconomics, human safety, 
and other resources.

Public Comment

How To Provide Comments

    During the scoping period, public open houses will be held on both 
the east and west sides of the North Cascades Ecosystem to provide an 
opportunity for the public to share their comments and learn more about 
grizzly bear restoration. Details regarding the exact times and 
locations of these meetings will be announced on the project Web site 
(http://parkplanning.nps.gov/NCEG) and through local and regional 
media. The meetings will also be announced through email notification 
to individuals and organizations on the initial distribution list. 
Those wishing to be added to the project information distribution list 
should send an email request to NCE_grizzly@nps.gov.
    If you wish to comment on the purpose, need, objectives, potential 
alternatives, or on any other issues associated with development of the 
draft Plan/EIS, you may submit your comments by any one of several 
methods. You may comment online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/NCEG. 
You may also mail or hand deliver comments to the Superintendent, North 
Cascades National Park Service Complex, 810 State Route 20, Sedro-
Woolley, WA 98284. Written comments will also be accepted at the public 
open houses. Comments will not be accepted by fax, email, or by any 
method other than those specified above. Bulk comments in any format 
(hard copy or electronic) submitted on behalf of others will not be 

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

    Dated: February 6, 2015.
Robyn Thorson,
Regional Director, Pacific Region, Fish and Wildlife Service.
    Dated: February 5, 2015.
Christine S. Lehnertz,
Regional Director, Pacific West Region, National Park Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-03504 Filed 2-18-15; 8:45 am]