Defenders in the Northwest
Sage-Grouse, Photo: USFWS Pacific Southwest Region

Other Key Species

Grizzly Bear

The Pacific Northwest is home to one of only five remaining grizzly populations in the lower 48. While grizzly bears were in serious trouble before they gained protection under the Endangered Species Act, their numbers in the Northwest are still dangerously low. Our goal is to lead restoration efforts on both the federal and state level. Defenders is actively engaged in the federal environmental review process for grizzly bear recovery in the North Cascades ecosystem, which kicked off in 2015 after a 20 year delay.  We helped mobilize nearly 3,000 individuals to submit comments during the initial public comment period, with over 80% in favor of restoring the grizzly bear population in the North Cascades. We are also partnering with current coexistence programs in the Selkirk mountains of eastern Washington and northern Idaho to provide pragmatic and proven solutions for avoiding conflicts between people and grizzlies in that region.


Greater sage-grouse are imperiled west-wide, including in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Sage-grouse became isolated in Washington state many decades ago and are now considered a distinct population of the species. Habitat loss and degradation remain primary threats to sage-grouse in all three states.  Defenders and partners are heavily engaged in both state and federal planning processes to conserve and recover sage-grouse. We are also pursuing a variety of habitat protection efforts across the range of the species, including specially designated key habitat areas for conservation.

Southern Resident Orcas

Endangered southern resident orcas are top predators and cultural icons of the Pacific Northwest coastline, from Washington and Oregon to northern California, and they are closely tied to the overall health of the ecosystem. Unfortunately, they are just barely holding on. Numbers have dropped from 87 to 80 since 2005 when they came under federal protection and are down significantly from a high count of 98 in 1995.

Defenders is taking a multi-pronged approach to boost the recovery of Southern Resident Orca populations in the Pacific Northwest. They include: mobilizing local public awareness of and support for orca recovery; pressing for stronger enforcement of “Whale Protection Zones” to reduce disturbances from vessel traffic; advocating for increased Orca protection funding in state legislature; and identifying opportunities to support Orca recovery through reduction of toxic pollutants in the marine environment.

More on Defenders in the Northwest: Northwest Landscapes »

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