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 with Rob Miskosky

Doomsayer Predictions Seldom Bear Fruit

On June 3, 2010, Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) Minister, Mel Knight, announced that Alberta’s grizzly bears had been officially designated as “threatened”.

“To better protect the animals and maintain the overall provincial population,” he’d said.

A move lauded as a victory by environmentalists who were declaring the great bear endangered for at least 20-plus years prior in wild rose country.

Some were making it public that there were less than 300 grizzlies roaming the province. And depending on the day and which side of the bed they woke up on, that number was constantly in a state of flux.

Thus a reason the government hesitated to list the bear as threatened in the first place—nobody knew the real number of grizzly bears in Alberta, and many suspect that number is still unknown to this day.

But on that June day in 2010, Alberta’s grizzly bears were afforded “threatened” status.

“We share this province with grizzly bears and are committed to ensuring grizzly bears remain part of Alberta’s landscape,” minister Knight had said at the time.

Swan Hills grizzly bears forage, oblivious to photographer Duane Rosenkranz.
But groups like the Willmore Wilderness Foundation (WWF), the Alberta Fish and Game Association (AFGA) and others, believe the number of grizzly bears today is much higher than the 691 suggested, and a population most certainly not nearly as unstable as environmentalists would lead you to believe.

Then in early April of this year, the Alberta government announced once again that the spring grizzly hunt would be cancelled for a fifth consecutive year.

But environmentalists, while applauding the cancellation of the hunt once again, are upset the government refuses to act outside of a year-to-year basis and are calling for a five-year ban on the hunt.

However, others like the aforementioned WWF and AFGA are convinced there are pockets in the province holding an abundance of grizzlies and that the government should be looking at bear numbers based on region or Wildlife Management Unit (WMU), not on a province-wide population basis.

In a recent Calgary Herald article, our own TJ Schwanky, who spends as much time as anybody hiking the Kananaskis backcountry, suggested the region could easily withstand a hunt.

“It’s certainly nothing to see 10 to a dozen different bears over a few days.

“The highest was five in one day, and that would have been two years ago,” he said.

But more recently, after a female grizzly was killed by a train near Banff and the release of the government’s 2010 Grizzly Mortality Statistics and Interpretation report showing 19 grizzly bears died because of human causes in 2010, environmentalists are once again questioning why the government refuses to act and shut down access into grizzly bear country.

In an ENGO press release, Sarah Elmeligi of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said, “These mortality rates demonstrate that even though the Alberta Government has made a promise on paper, that isn’t translating into on-the-ground action that actually reverses the causes of bear deaths.”

And according to the Alberta Wilderness Association’s Nigel Douglas, “The threatened listing is meaningless if serious measures are not introduced to reduce grizzly bear mortality.

“The single greatest benefit would come from reducing motorized access into grizzly bear habitat.”

One can only imagine the Cheshire cat grins on the faces of those involved with the Wildland’s Project and the Y2Y consortium who want access cut off into Alberta’s eastern slopes, period.

But the recent expansion of no-baiting WMUs where black bear hunting seasons exist in the 2011 Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations can’t be considered anything other than a direct response to an increasing number of grizzly bears occupying those WMUs. Wildlife Management Units 320, 324 and 526 have all had portions added to the no baiting group of WMUs. Grizzly bears must be doing just fine in those areas as well.

But if you listen to the save-the-world crowd, Alberta’s grizzly is doomed to extinction unless drastic measures are taken immediately. It feels like we’ve been told this for years now.

But SRD refuses to bend to the whims of the doomsayers and continues to monitor Alberta’s grizzly bear population on a year-by-year basis, especially where the hunt is concerned, for obvious reasons. And for this, they should be applauded, not chastised.

In an excellent article written by Ben Eisen, Senior Policy Analyst for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy entitled “Radical environmentalists also have a record of false apocalyptic prophecies”, he wrote “... we should also treat apocalyptic prophecies from the deep green movement with healthy scepticism.” And, “Although we should take environmental risks seriously, we should also recognize the environmentalist movement’s track record of overhyping those risks, and consider that record as they continue to insist that civilization will collapse if we refuse to enact their policy agenda.”

Eisen ends his article with, “Radical environmentalists have also built a record of wrongly predicting massive cataclysms, and we should be hesitant before enacting policies that entail enormous economic costs in reaction to their latest set of doomsday predictions.”

While Eisen may not be referring to those who claim the loss of the grizzly bear in Alberta is near, his writing most surely reflects the thoughts of most reasonable people who see things for what they are, not for what they want them to be.

The grizzly bear in Alberta appears to be doing just fine in many regions—there is too much evidence to suggest otherwise. And as such, the great bear should be managed on this basis, not in an all-encompassing manner. ■

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