From North Cascades Institute

Search Chattermarks

North Cascades on Instagram


Grizzly reintroduction in the North Cascades: Make your voice heard!

January 12th, 2017 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

Public Invited to Open Houses on Proposed Alternatives for Grizzly Bear Restoration in North Cascades Ecosystem
Public comment period open through March 14, 2017

The National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) invite the public to participate in a series of informational open houses regarding the proposed alternatives for the restoration of grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem. The alternatives are described in the draft Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (draft EIS), released today by the two agencies. The meetings are one part of the public’s opportunity to comment on the draft EIS.

The purpose of the EIS is to determine what actions, if any, should be taken to restore the grizzly bear to the North Cascades Ecosystem. Although there are six populations of grizzly bears in North America, the last-known siting of grizzlies in the United States portion of the North Cascades Ecosystem is 1996. The goal of the public comment period is to gather comments regarding the draft EIS; public comments received on the draft EIS will be evaluated and considered in the identification of the preferred alternative, which will be published in the Final EIS. The full draft EIS is available at

The alternatives analyzed in this draft EIS include a “no-action” alternative, plus three action alternatives that would seek to restore a reproducing population of approximately 200 bears through the capture and release of grizzly bears into the North Cascades Ecosystem. The alternatives were developed by a planning team with input from the public, local, state and federal agencies, and the scientific community.

In addition to the open houses, the public also is invited to submit written comments at Comments may also be submitted through March 14, 2017 via regular mail or hand delivery at: Superintendent’s Office, North Cascades National Park Service Complex, 810 State Route 20, Sedro Woolley, WA 98284

In order to maximize opportunities for public input, webinars are scheduled for Tuesday, February 14 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Pacific Time and Sunday, February 26 from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Pacific Time. For more information about the open houses and to register for the webinars, visit: and click on the “Meetings” link.
The public open houses will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the following locations:

Cle Elum – February 13 at the Putnam Centennial Center
Cashmere – February 14 at the Riverside Center
Winthrop – February 15 at the Red Barn
Omak – February 16 at the Annex Facility at Okanogan County Fairgrounds
Bellingham – February 21 at the Oxford Suites
Darrington – February 22 at the Darrington Community Center
Sultan – February 23 at the Sultan High School
Renton – February 24 at the Renton Community Center

» Continue reading Grizzly reintroduction in the North Cascades: Make your voice heard!

Grizzly Bears in the Pacific Northwest: Part 6

April 4th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

Much of the opposition to the recovery efforts of the grizzly in the North Cascades stem from hikers, climbers, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts who fear recreating in grizzly country. Where hiking in grizzly country brings more risk, hikers in the Northern Rockies and Alaska will tell you that it brings a new thrill and sense of wildness to the outdoor experience.  Being aware of how to responsibly recreate in grizzly country can greatly reduce some of the risks involved with hiking and fishing in bear country. There are many resources available on how to recreate in grizzly country from the National Park and Forest Services as well as many non-profit organizations such as; Western Wildlife Outreach, The Great Bear Foundation, and The International Grizzly Bear Committee.

What people also fail to realize is that even if the North Cascades were to start recovery of the grizzly population, it would be 25-50 years before people started to see them, and another 100 years before the population recovered completely, due to how slowly grizzlies reproduce.

The problem in the Pacific Northwest as stated above is that we have never had to deal with grizzlies unlike the people in the Northern Rockies. The only thing we know about the grizzly is from what we have seen from American culture, and unfortunately American culture has not painted an accurate portrayal of the grizzly bear. If the North Cascades is to effectively implement its recovery strategy it needs to succeed on two levels; first it needs sound science to back it up, which it has, and secondly it needs support from the public, and the only way that the public will become okay with the grizzly bear walking around in the Cascades is if we begin to tear down these false images of the grizzly and start to properly educate people.

» Continue reading Grizzly Bears in the Pacific Northwest: Part 6


March 17th, 2016 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

Tireless bear activist Chris Morgan Wildlife has shared a new 7-minute video about grizzlies in the North Cascades. WANTED: GRIZZLY BEARS? is an educational short film that captures the beauty of grizzlies and delves into people’s perceptions and misperceptions of these natives to the North Cascades.

Wanted: Grizzly Bears? from ChrisMorganWildlife on Vimeo.

“We interviewed people from all walks of life for this film short…there are a lot of perceptions of grizzly bears out there and they all deserve to be heard. My hope is that the film will trigger curiosity and perhaps help people learn more about these fascinating mammals that are part of the Washington State landscape,” said Morgan, who has hosted TV productions for PBS, National Geographic Television, BBC, Discovery Channel.

You can learn more about grizzly bear ecology in our ongoing series by Mike Rosekrans at

Grizzly Bears in the Pacific Northwest: Part 5

March 3rd, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

People in Montana and Northwestern Wyoming have been living and recreating in close proximity to grizzlies upon settlement. In Washington nobody has seen a grizzly in nearly 20 years. For those who do not live in grizzly country it is an animal associated with danger and fear. Common misconceptions and ignorance about grizzlies are major reasons why they have nearly gone extinct and may have an even tougher time recovering in The North Cascades. In Grizzly Wars David Knibb states, “Ignorance breeds fear. Ironically, because people around the Cascades lack firsthand experience with grizzlies, they are more afraid and thus more likely to oppose recovery efforts” (Knibb, 50).

People that do not live in grizzly country and those who have never encountered a grizzly before, like those of us living in the Pacific Northwest, are going to have the preconceived notion that the American culture has created about the grizzly, a culture created by the media to make a fixed story in our minds about what to believe about something. I have yet to see a Hollywood movie where the lost children or the lonesome cowboy come across a grizzly eating berries as it glances up noticing the people and simply returns to eating berries. Instead of this natural occurrence, the bear almost always attacks, only to have the children rescued by a brave outdoorsman or the cowboy besting the monster by pumping multiple gunshots into its pelt. This all too often scene has been played out hundreds of times through the American public’s television screens and feeds into the notion that man has dominion over all of nature. Wilderness is the antagonist and needs to be tamed and subdued by man, and nothing speaks of wilderness more than animals like wolves and grizzlies.

» Continue reading Grizzly Bears in the Pacific Northwest: Part 5


Rewilding Cascadia: Return of the grizzly, wolves and fisher in the North Cascades

January 14th, 2016 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

Over the last two centuries human expansion has halted and almost destroyed natural habitat for many species across America. In recent time there has been multiple efforts to “rewild” or restore natural places to previous states. Recently there have been success stories with grizzly bears, wolves, and fishers in the North Cascades Ecosystem.

Grizzly Bears:

Big grizzly populations in places like Yellowstone and the Northern Continental Divide, where about 1,600 grizzlies live, are recovery successes for the species.

Wildlife managers in other ecosystems are looking to those successes as they consider reintroducing bears into other parts of the West.

Only about 20 grizzly bears live in the North Cascades ecosystem of north central Washington. Jack Oeflke works for North Cascades National Park.

“To get to a few hundred animals there it could take 50 to 100 years,” says Oeflke. “So I’ll never see it, but working on it, and hoping we can steer it in that direction is pretty exciting.”

The above excerpt from Corin Cates-Carney describes how far behind the North Cascades ecosystem is compared to comparable wild spaces in regards to grizzly population. The success of both the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide sites strengthen the argument for grizzly reintroduction in the North Cascades.

Starting in 1997 the North Cascades was designated as a recovery zone for the bears. A lot of work was needed to be done to get the local population ready for a sizable bear population again. Two of their biggest tools: education and outreach.

Overall, Oeflke says, concerns about reintroduction have been far outweighed by support for bear recovery.

Grizzly Habitat in the North Cascades. Photo courtesy of the Seattle Times.

One such support is by Ron Judd, who shares a personal story with a group of bear juveniles.

That evening, we rigged up our rods and made the short walk to the river mouth to meet the incoming tide, which was like none I had ever seen. Each long, slow wave cruising up the river was half water, half fish. Every cast into these waters produced a strike, from a coho or a feisty Dolly Varden.

To us, it was catch-and-release nirvana. To the four or five brown bears that soon emerged on the opposite side of the river, it was supper. Everyone present made eye contact and managed to avoid flipping out. We backed off and watched them fish. Gradually, they began ignoring us and concentrated on feeding, moving slightly upstream, staying on their side of the river. At some point we shrugged, crept back to the river mouth and started fishing again. Peace prevailed.

I don’t really recommend this, and to this day, I’m not sure what possessed us to take the risk. Most of the bears were juveniles, and seemed utterly disinterested. But one, a massive sow we saw skirt through the area, was the largest bear I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure I would stay there if presented with the same situation today. But at the time, it just seemed OK.

It is a cliché, but you sort of had to be there. I will never forget, fishing a river opposite those bears, the indescribable mixture of fear and reverence I felt in that place and time. With senses heightened off the charts, it was as if I had stopped observing the natural world, and for the first time, stepped all the way into it.

» Continue reading Rewilding Cascadia: Return of the grizzly, wolves and fisher in the North Cascades

Grizz with cubs

Grizzly Bears in the Pacific Northwest: A Natural History (Part 4)

January 7th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

Recovery came swiftly to the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide Ecosystems, unfortunately the same could not be said of the North Cascades. Like the glaciers that move so slowly, grinding their way through the high country, the North Cascades Ecosystem (NCE) Recovery Plan has moved no faster than the glaciers. One could even argue that with the increased melting of the glaciers due to climate change the glaciers are now moving faster than the grizzly recovery project.

The North Cascades Recovery Zone differed from Yellowstone and Glacier because when the recovery zones were established, the North Cascades had much fewer numbers than the other two parks in the recovery zone. As stated above the last grizzly sighting on the American side of the North Cascades was in 1996. Occasionally a track in the mud will be found, but it is estimated now that ten or fewer bears inhabit the North Cascades Ecosystem.

This lack of a viable population presents several problems for potential recovery. Grizzlies are very slow reproducers with an average life expectancy of 25 years. One may think that 25 years is a rather long lifespan in comparison to most wild mammals, giving them plenty of chances each year to reproduce. But when looking at some of the evolutionary habits of the grizzly we start to see that 25 years might not be enough to increase the population.

A female grizzly will not start mating until the age of 5 – 8 years. When the female finally does mate, she will spend 3 to 4 years with her cubs. The average female bear will only mate 2 or 3 times in her life. Survival of cubs is yet another concern. A female grizzly will normally have two cubs of which, under typical environmental circumstances, only one will survive. Grizzly cubs have to face the challenge of eluding other predators such as cougars, wolves, and even other male grizzlies. Male grizzlies have been known to kill cubs that aren’t theirs in order to ensure that their own offspring carries on. Also, in an ecosystem where there may be less than 10 other grizzlies it can be very difficult just to find a mate, considering that grizzlies have a large range of up to 500 square miles.

» Continue reading Grizzly Bears in the Pacific Northwest: A Natural History (Part 4)

SWW 2015 Beach sitting

The Practice of Presence: Responding to Inner & Outer Landscapes Field Notes and Poems (Part Two)

December 26th, 2015 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

North Cascades Institute hosted a class called Sit, Walk, Write: Nature and the Practice of Presence. Participants began their days with a sitting meditation, followed by writing and sharing poetry and short nature essays, walking meditation, and exploring the woods around the Learning Center. Here are some participant poems that came out of this unique weekend in the North Cascades. The first group of pieces from this year can be found here.

Poems in Response to “Voices from the Salmon Nations” by Frances Ambrose


Those great, smooth boulders
were they polished by glaciers?
or by the years of glacial melt
relentlessly flowing over and around?
or by countless salmon bodies brushing their sides
on the struggle upstream?

Death for a rock comes
when it is ground to powder by wind, waves, other rocks
and then dissolved in water
to become food for plankton and algae
in turn, food for feeder fish
who become dinner for salmon.

The next time I eat salmon patties
will I remember and praise those ancient rocks?

When I die
I too will return to molecules
that will feed the smallest to largest creatures,

Great boulders: you and I are kin.

Late Fall

The river stinks.
Dead salmon litter the banks.
Rotting fins float in the eddies.
Eyes pecked out by crows.
Whole carcasses carried into the forest by eagles,
remnants scattered on duff below tall perches.
Fat bears waddle away, fish blood on their muzzles.
Stink and happiness everywhere.

» Continue reading The Practice of Presence: Responding to Inner & Outer Landscapes Field Notes and Poems (Part Two)