Federal report points to need to protect grizzly habitat in Alberta

Sierra Club Canada
2009-08-10

(Calgary/Ottawa) Grizzly bear populations are unlikely to return to their former Canadian range where they are now extinct, according to a report released by Environment Canada. The report concludes that the best chance for recovering populations in Canada is to protect habitat where bears are surviving today.

The report on the Prairie population of grizzly bears also identifies specific actions that are required to recover grizzly bear populations. Chief among these are protecting grizzly habitat against industrial uses, roads, and human disturbance, and reducing human-caused mortality.

“This report identifies what is needed to recover grizzly bears in Canada,” said Jean Langlois, senior campaigns advisor at Sierra Club Canada. “The question now is whether the Federal and Alberta governments will act responsibly to ensure these actions are taken.”

Sierra Club Canada is urging the federal government to respond to the report with the following actions:

  • List the Grizzly bear under the Species at Risk Act, as has been recommended by scientific authorities
  • Urgently develop plans to protect the species in accordance with the Species at Risk Act
  • Cooperate with Alberta to protect grizzly habitat

“The federal government has confirmed that Alberta is the front line in the grizzly bear’s battle for survival in Canada,” said Carl Morrison, Action Grizzly Bear Campaigner. “Alberta’s remaining grizzly bears face the same threats that have caused grizzlies to disappear across half their former range. Government action is needed now to reverse this trend.”

Sierra Club Canada is urging the Alberta government to respond to the report with the following actions:

  • Dedicate funding for recovery in the Provincial Budget.
  • List the grizzly as Threatened, as was recommended by Alberta’s Endangered Species Conservation Committee in 2002.
  • Protect critical habitat and reduce road densities throughout grizzly bear range.
  • Reduce conflict and human-caused mortalities.
  • Reinstate the Grizzly Bear Recovery Team which was disbanded despite their pivotal role in monitoring the recovery process.

The scientific Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated Canada’s remaining grizzly bears (the northwest population) as a species of special concern in April 1991, and reconfirmed this status in May 2002, but the Minister still refuses to officially recognize this status under the Species at Risk Act. In contrast the COSEWIC assessment of the vanished prairie population was recognized when the act was passed in 2002.

The Government of Canada’s revised Recovery Strategy for the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos), Prairie Population, in Canada was posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry on July 29. It can be found at: www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/document/default_e.cfm?documentID=1293
 

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For more information:
Carl Morrison, Action Grizzly Bear Campaigner, 403 234-7368, Calgary, AB
Jean Langlois, National Campaign Advisor 1-888-810-4204 ex 230, Ottawa, ON

BACKGROUNDER - Canada’s track record: ‘protection’ under the Species at Risk Act is only given to bear populations that have already disappeared

Date

Event

April 1991

The scientific Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designates Canada’s remaining grizzly bears (the northwest population) as a species of special concern, and the vanished population (the prairie population) as extirpated.

May 2002

COSEWIC reconfirms the At Risk status of Canada’s remaining grizzly bears (the northwest population).

December 2002

Federal Species at Risk Act becomes law. (Some sections come into effect later.)
The vanished prairie population is listed in the act; the remaining northwest population is not.

April 2004

In an April 2004 statement responding to COSEWIC’s reconfirmation that Canada’s remaining grizzly bear population is at risk, Environment Canada stated: “The Minister of the Environment will immediately forward the COSEWIC assessment of this species to the Governor in Council (GIC). The Minister of the Environment will consult… and will make a recommendation to the GIC on whether or not to add this species to the List. The GIC will make a decision within nine (9) months of having received the assessment.”

January 2005

In January 2005 the Government of Canada stated (Canada Gazette part 2, emphasis added):
Three species of concern for the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, the polar bear, the Northwestern population of the grizzly bear and the Western population of the wolverine, are not being added to Schedule 1 at this time in order to consult with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board on concerns that have been raised by the Board. These consultations will be undertaken on an urgent basis and are expected to be completed this spring, at which time the Minister will reconsider the matter.”

The federal government did not act on listing the grizzly bear northwest population in the spring of 2005, or since.

July 2007

Federal government releases Proposed Recovery Strategy for the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos), Prairie Population, in Canada.

September 2007

Sierra Club Canada recommends a more scientifically rigorous approach to identifying what would be required for the recovery of prairie grizzlies in its critique of the proposed recovery strategy.

July 2009

Federal government releases revised final Recovery Strategy for the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos), Prairie Population, in Canada.

August 2009

Sierra Club feels the new report is more scientifically rigorous. The new analysis points to the importance of protecting habitat on the frontline of grizzly survival in Alberta.

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