Conservation Groups Call for Release of Habitat Report, Parks and Funding to Save Grizzlies

Alberta Wilderness AssociationDefenders of Wildlife CanadaCPAWS — Northern AlbertaFederation of Alberta NaturalistsNatural Resources Defense CouncilJasper Environmental AssociationWest Athabasca Bioregional SocietySierra Club of Canada

Media Release For Immediate Release: Oct. 24, 2007

Calgary — Local and national conservation organizations are calling on Alberta's Sustainable Development Minister, Ted Morton, to release the scientists' report outlining core grizzly habitat areas to his Grizzly Bear Recovery Team and the public. To make up for the five years of lost time during the protracted recovery planning process, they are asking Morton and the Minister of Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture, Hector Goudreau, to quickly move on establishing three wildland parks, which encompass core grizzly habitat long known to be important to the bears' future and which have already gone through various assessment and review processes.

The organizations are also calling on Morton to make funding available to implement the Team's Grizzly Bear Re­covery Plan and on the government to make endangered species recovery as a whole, including grizzly bears, a line item in the provincial budget instead of leaving it to discretionary funding in a department budget.

"The Yellowstone grizzly population was headed toward extinction until recovery programs were put in place that dramatically reduced human caused mortality, closed hundreds of miles of roads, and set aside much of the grizzly recovery zone from future development," explains Louisa Willcox, Natural Resources Defense Council.

The scientists that have been conducting Alberta's state-of-the-art grizzly bear census have already provided Morton's department with their report on the location of the bear's core habitat, but it has yet to be released.

The groups also echo scientists' prescriptions for grizzly bear recovery: establish parks and other such protected ar­eas for critical grizzly habitat and reduce road densities in the rest of the grizzly bear range.

"The world's top science and cultural agency, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, has repeatedly raised alarms about threats to Jasper National Park, in large part due to the lack of protection for critical grizzly bear habitat on the adjacent provincial lands where the Cardinal River mine is underway," says Dianne Pachal, Sierra Club of Can­ada. "Alberta has yet to act on the federal-provincial panel recommendation that more of that nationally significant Mountain Park area be protected in addition to the small Wildhorse Wildand Park."

The other two parks the groups say the government could move on immediately for grizzly bear recovery are the Castle Special Place, which is the proposed Andy Russell-I'tai sah kop Park in southwest Alberta and the Bighorn wildland west of Rocky Mountain House. A government appointed, multi-stakeholder panel in 1993 recommended the Bighorn be established by the end of 1994. Carnivore biologists again wrote the premier last year asking him to protect the Castle, which is the only one of 81 Special Places that has yet to be protected as some type of park.

"During the 1980s, the province actively closed and reclaimed roads and seismic lines in the Prime Protection zone of the Eastern Slopes," notes Nigel Douglas of the Alberta Wilderness Association. "With release of the habitat re­port, the province and industry could then get down to doing the same for core grizzly bear habitat."

"The Minister found 50 million dollars for pine beetle work, so we see no reason why he couldn't promptly approve the full grizzly bear recovery plan and come up with the three million dollars and the few extra staff needed to im­plement it," states Jim Pissot, Defenders of Wildlife Canada. "The Bear Smart Program, desperately needed to re­duce human caused mortalities and conflicts with grizzlies was launched last year, but is still starved for funding."

The organizations' insistence on action to protect habitat and reclaim roads follows Morton's announcement last week that the protracted review of the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan is now complete and that there is no new funding to implement the plan at this time. He has assigned his department to work with the multi-stakeholder recovery team on his requested changes, including further weakening a key recommendation on reducing roads.

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For More Information:

Jim Pissot, Defenders of Wildlife Canada, 403 678-0016
Dianne Pachal, Sierra Club of Canada, 403 234-7368
Nigel Douglas, Alberta Wilderness Assoc., 403 283-2025
Louisa Wilcox, Natural Resources Defence Council, 406-581-3839 (cel)