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Wilderness Defenders: Grizzly Bear Draft Recovery Plan

June 20, 2016

Dear Wilderness Defender,

The Alberta Government released its  draft Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan on June 1, which is available for public comment until July 15, 2016.
The Recovery Plan will inform land use management decisions throughout Alberta and will affect the future of this species. Your input will be considered and may be used to revise the draft plan.
You can help by completing the online Consultation Survey and by telling the Alberta Government why it is important to you to recover and protect grizzlies in Alberta.
– Joanna Skrajny, Conservation Specialist

 

The Issue

Management Planning Concerns

AWA is generally concerned that that this Recovery Plan does not reflect a Precautionary Principle in wildlife management and may put this iconic species further at risk.

AWA’s major concerns include:

Mortality Rate Objectives

The draft Recovery Plan has proposed an increase in acceptable mortality rate objectives in BMAs 5 and 6 to “less than 6.0%, of which the female mortality does not exceed 1.8 %.” AWA strongly opposes the changed mortality rate objectives in BMAs 5 and 6. There is no scientific basis for raising what are considered to be acceptable mortality rates in these areas. By allowing higher mortality in some BMAs, the greater Alberta population of grizzlies are placed at greater risk due to their large home ranges. With proper attractant management and aversive conditioning, these rates of grizzly death in these BMAs will decrease significantly.

Vital Core Habitat Zones

The draft Recovery Plan has removed Core and Secondary Zones in the Porcupine Hills and designated them as a “Support Zone” in BMA 5. This means that there will no longer be a requirement to manage road density or limit mortalities in the area. We strongly believe this change in designation has the potential to increase mortality rates and increase relocation away from the vital grizzly habitat in the Porcupine Hills.

Open Route vs. Open Road

The new Draft Grizzly Bear Recovery plan has changed from Open Route to Open Road Density Thresholds. Since thresholds are now only applied to “access that is reasonably drivable with on-highway vehicles”, there is potential for an increase in the proliferation of  disturbances in Alberta which already far exceed any acceptable limits for wildlife.

There is robust scientific evidence to show that habitat disturbance decreases grizzly bear survival by increasing human-grizzly conflict; and that habitat loss and displacement are major factors resulting in deaths. ALL disturbances (not just roads) must be considered open and consistently accessed by humans. OHV use on designated/undesignated trails results in increased access into grizzly bear habitat, increasing indirect and direct human-caused grizzly mortality and decreasing grizzly recovery.

Precautionary Principle

AWA believes that the Recovery Plan must apply the Precautionary Principle to reduce disturbance in grizzly habitat (by placing limits on open route density thresholds) before there can be a viable population in Alberta.

BearSmart Programs

The enhancement of Alberta’s BearSmart Programming and the hiring of additional human-wildlife conflict management specialists is a positive step that AWA endorses.

Background

A recovery plan is developed after a species is provincially listed as Endangered or Threatened in the regulations under the Alberta Wildlife Act. A recovery plan includes a goal, specific objectives, strategies, and actions with associated timelines required for recovery of the particular threatened or endangered species. The first Alberta grizzly bear recovery plan is available here.

Recovery plans are revised periodically, usually every five years.

To read AWA’s letter on the Draft Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan, click here
Take Action

Fill out the online Consultation Survey, which is open for public input until July 15, 2016.

We would also  like to encourage you to send your comments and concerns to:
Hon. Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks
aep.minister@gov.ab.ca

Travis Ripley, Executive Director of Fish and Wildlife Policy Branch
travis.ripley@gov.ab.ca

Paul Frame, Provincial Carnivore Specialist
paul.frame@gov.ab.ca

And please copy AWA at jskrajny@abwild.ca

Input received from the public will be considered and may be used to revise the draft plan.

Thank you for helping to keep Alberta wild!

We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.
- Wallace Stegner
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