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Amendment defunds grizzly transport, delists wolves

A U.S. Interior Department appropriations bill, just passed out of committee, includes an amendment from Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., that defunds transporting grizzly bears into the North Cascades, delists gray wolves and increases transparency of grazing permit monitoring.

Daan Wheat
Capital Press

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee has passed an Interior Department appropriations bill that included an amendment by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., denying funding for transporting grizzly bears into the North Cascade Range.

The bill, approved June 6, provides annual funding for Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, Indian Health Service and other agencies. The bill next goes to the House floor. The timing has not yet been determined.

“I have heard my constituents loud and clear on their opposition to transporting grizzly bears to the North Cascades and the rest of the federal government should take note of local communities’ voices as well,” Newhouse said.

Meanwhile, Eric Rickerson, Washington state supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the USFWS and National Park Service will meet the week of June 11 to discuss comments received on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement of North Cascades grizzly bear plans. Soon thereafter, he said, staff will make a recommendation to superiors in the agencies.

The agencies will choose between taking no action or one of three action alternatives for relocating grizzlies to the North Cascades, he said. A final EIS will come out at the end of September.

Newhouse’s amendment also includes taking the gray wolf off the list of protected species by the end of fiscal year 2019, preserving the North Cascades Smokejumper Base in Winthrop, Wash., research on the disease transmission risk between domestic and bighorn sheep and greater USFS transparency in grazing permit monitoring.

The bill fully funds the 10-year average of Interior and USFS wildland firefighting and prevention at $3.9 billion, an additional $500 million for USFS fire suppression and $655 million for hazardous fuels management, which is $30 million above the fiscal year 2018 level.

The bill provides $500 million for payment in lieu of taxes — $35 million more than the budget request — for local governments in 49 states to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their counties.