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Letter for grizzlies from the first superintendent of North Cascades National Park

A letter supporting North Cascades grizzly bear recovery from Roger Contor, first superintendent of North Cascades National Park.

Representative Norm Dicks
2467 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

December 13, 2007

Dear Representative Dicks,

I am deeply concerned about the nearly extinct grizzly bear population in the North Cascades. I ask for your help in restoring this magnificent native of Washington State to its rightful place.

I had the privilege of being the first superintendent of North Cascades National Park from 1968 through 1970. I know you remember the great efforts of Senator Jackson and Representative Meeds leading to the Park’s creation, and later in getting it started on the right foot with surrounding communities.

The new park coincidentally provided the first protected area for grizzlies in the history of the State. At the time we had four known grizzlies in the whole park—a tenuous population in need of help. After agreement with Game Department officials, I proposed to the State Game Commission that grizzlies be protected statewide. The Commission realized this action was long overdue and promptly made it so. However, after nearly 40 years of regulatory protection, plus Federal declaration as an Endangered Species in l975, the bears have not achieved the critical mass sufficient for recovery.

As you know, a primary purpose of all our great National Parks is to provide some of the last refugia for our irreplaceable wildlife legacy. Grizzlies, lynx, wolverines, wolves and the hundreds of other native species make this and other wild lands treasure troves of primitive America.

Before retiring, I was Regional Director for the National Parks in Alaska. The Service has responsibility for a significant share of the 25 to 30 thousand grizzlies in that state. It was a joy to see those bears provide a powerfully magic public attraction and a primary focus of visitor enjoyment. Few things are as thrilling as being in the presence of grizzlies. They can do much the same for parks and wilderness areas in the North Cascades, contributing to the social, aesthetic and economic well being of our State and Nation.

The grizzly is more vulnerable to human perturbations than other large wildlife, but is still a resilient and adaptable animal. Given a fair chance it can rebound to self-sustaining numbers. However, the North Cascades grizzly has struggled at such low numbers it needs our proactive help in the form of population augmentation to give it a numerical and genetic leg-up. It has been done elsewhere and can be done here.

Aldo Leopold’s story of “Escudilla” describes the killing of the last grizzly on a dominant mountain in Arizona: “The government trapper…. knew he had made Escudilla safe for cows. He did not know he had toppled the spire off an edifice a-building since the morning stars sang together. Escudilla still hangs on the horizon, but when you see it you no longer think of bear. It is only a mountain now.”

The North Cascades deserve to be remembered as more than just mountains.

Please support grizzly bear recovery in the North Cascades. The State of Washington has appropriated nearly a half-million dollars for recovery plan implementation. I urge you to supplement that effort with adequate federal funding for the necessary public process to recover our North Cascades bears.

Your help is vital to the effort.



Roger Contor
2901 Hancock Street
Port Townsend, WA 98368

CC: Representative Rick Larsen
107 Canon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Senator Maria Cantwell
511 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Patty Murray
173 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Ken Berg, Field Supervisor
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Western Washington Fish and Wildlife Office
510 Desmond Dr. SE., Suite 101
Lacey, WA 98503-1273
Dave Brittel, Assistant Director
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North
Olympia, WA 98501
Chip Jenkins, Superintendent
North Cascades National Park Service Complex
810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284

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