National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife slate open houses, webinars in February.

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Your chance to ask questions and tell the government whether you love or don’t love the idea of restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades is coming in February — including an internet-based “webinar” on Valentine’s Day.

The National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are inviting the public to open houses regarding proposed alternatives for the restoration of grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem. The alternatives are described in a restoration plan and environmental impact statement (EIS) that the two agencies released Thursday.

The meetings are part of the public’s opportunity to comment on the draft EIS (the text  can be found here).

Although there are six populations of grizzly bears in North America, the last-known sighting of grizzlies in the U.S. portion of the North Cascades Ecosystem was in 1996, though a grizzly was seen more recently 20 miles north of the Washington border. The grizzly bear was listed as a threatened species in the contiguous United States in 1975. The species was listed as endangered by Washington in 1980.

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The open houses will not be formal hearings but will give people a chance to ask questions and submit written comments. For Seattle-area residents, the closest will be 6-8 p.m. at Renton Community Center, 1715 S.E. Maple Valley Highway, on Feb. 24. Other open houses will be 6-8 p.m. at these locations:

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

Webinars are scheduled Feb. 14 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and Feb. 26 from 5-7 p.m. For more information about the open houses and to register for the webinars, visit: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grizzlydeis and click on the “Meeting Notices” link.

The agencies also invite written comments at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grizzlydeis. Or, comments may  be submitted through March 14 via regular mail or hand delivery at: Superintendent’s Office, North Cascades National Park Service Complex, 810 Highway 20, Sedro Woolley, WA 98284.

The North Cascades Ecosystem encompasses 9,800 square miles in the United States and another 3,800 square miles in British Columbia. The U.S. portion includes North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

This story was corrected Jan. 12. The Fish and Wildlife Service updated the Feb. 21 Bellingham open-house site to Oxford Suites. An earlier version of this story gave the site as Bellingham Technical College.