Tuesday, March 15, 2011  
   Volume 81 - Issue 11 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“Everybody has a right to be in the backcountry.”
- Karl Giesler  
- Quad Squad President   
   
 
A recent satellite study PDFby Global Forest Watch Canada in the Castle Special Management Area, the largest portion of the province’s southernmost Core Grizzly Bear Conservation Area, identified 1,283 kilometres of roads and trails in the wilderness space.
Peter Lee, executive director of Global Forest Watch Canada, and lead author of the study, said as a result, the Castle is no longer secure for grizzly bears.
The study identified a trail density of 1.3km/square km, which is double – in some areas, triple – the density threshold of 0.6km/square km recommended for important grizzly bear areas.
Additional field surveys also indicated that many of the roads and trails which were mapped as “closed” were being used by off-highway vehicles, and that there were additional trails which were not shown on provincial maps.
According to the report, there is nearly double the number of provincially authorized ATV trails being utilized in the area.
“The amount of linear disturbances used by motorized vehicles substantially exceeded the Alberta Government’s statements, plans, and regulations,” said Lee.
Quad Squad President Karl Giesler said he has been involved with the club for the past four years, and has yet to encounter a grizzly in the Castle.
He said that could this could be either a positive or negative indication, but that the majority of recreational backcountry users respect wildlife and the landscape.
“People don’t go off the beaten path and disturb the wildlife,” said Giesler. “Most people here in the valley make good use of the backcountry.”
He said you would be hard pressed to find many people in the area who feel that recreational activity in the Castle threatens its wildlife habitats.
“(The government) just want the backcountry closed to everybody except themselves,” said Giesler. “That’s not fair to all of us who live in this beautiful valley and do our best to take care of it.”
Giesler said the Quad Squad is not opposed to the study’s intentions, and that preserving grizzly habitat is important, but that recreational activity does not negatively impact the area, and it should remain open as a multi-use recreation destination.
 
“Everybody has a right to be in the backcountry,” he said, while also recognizing the importance of treading lightly in the area.
“In some cases we need to clean up our act a bit, and that is why we have been busy building multi-use bridges in the backcountry so people aren’t driving through the creeks, and making sure that trails are well maintained and groomed.”
Pass Powderkeg
The Alberta Government identified the Castle as a protected area under the Special Places program in 1998, a time when the density of linear disturbances already substantially exceeded recommended thresholds for the bears, Lee said.
“Since then, there are an estimated 81 kilometres of new anthropogenic disturbances.”
Additional disturbances are expected to occur once Spray Lake Sawmills begin logging practices in the Castle this June.
The report concluded that the Castle is no longer secure for grizzlies, and that sustainable environmental management of the Castle wilderness is not occurring.
The Castle Special Management Area is also included in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, one of only two existing linkages within the Yellowstone to Yukon region, connecting Canadian and American grizzly bear populations to one other.
Grizzlies were identified as a threatened species in Alberta in June 2010, prompting the province to restrict access to bear habitat by hunters, industry workers, and recreational ATV riders, and also prompting the compilation of the Alberta Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan.
There are an estimated 700 grizzlies currently living in Alberta, more than half of which can be found in the foothills and mountains west of Edmonton near Grande Cache.
The remainder can be found in groups of 100 or fewer, scattered throughout the Southern Rockies and Kananaskis.
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   Volume 81 - Issue 11 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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