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Quote of the Week
"The primary cause of bear deaths is too much contact between bears and people due to motorized access."
- Wendy Francis  


Several Alberta conservation organizations are calling for an immediate moratorium on the construction of new roads and motorized access in grizzly bear habitat.
Representatives of the Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Conservation Initiative, Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA), Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), and Sierra Club of Canada (SCC) say Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) is more than two years behind on putting in place motorized access guidelines outlined in the province’s Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan, which was created in 2008.
Included in the recovery plan were suggested thresholds for motorized and multi-use trail densities, suggested to be below 0.6 km/sq km in core grizzly habitat and below 1.2 km/ sq km in non-core areas.
According to two recent studies, linear access densities - roads, trails and cut lines accessible to off-highway vehicles (OHVs) - in the Castle Wilderness watershed are double to triple the recommended threshold for core grizzly habitat.
In addition, the reports identified the Ghost watershed as having a density of 5 km/sq km, four times the recommended threshold for non-core habitat.
“At these densities, an average person hiking cross-country can travel only for an hour or less before encountering a route used by some type of vehicle,” said SCC Alberta Wild Director Dianne Pachal.
“Just think of how hard it is for bears trying to avoid people and to take in enough food to survive the upcoming hibernation.”
Y2Y Program Director Wendy Francis said SRD should limit access into grizzly habitat by OHV users.
“Now that the grizzly hunt is on hold, the primary cause of bear deaths is too much contact between bears and people due to motorized access into their habitat,” said Francis.

“Reducing this access will benefit not only grizzlies but also source water quality and other species at risk.”
According to an analysis by Global Forest Watch Canada, 93 per cent of trails not authorized for motorized access in the Castle Forest Land Use Zone showed signs of recent use.
“The government’s management of access routes is so flawed that the goals of the recovery plan are unachievable without a completely new approach to road and motorized trail approvals,” said AWA Conservation Specialist Nigel Douglas.
While he recognizes that OHV activity may be causing grizzlies to move deeper into the backcountry, Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad President Karl Giesler said it is definitely not leading to increased mortality, as suggested by Francis.
“Motorized vehicle users, mountain bikers, hikers and cross-country skiers aren’t harming the bears,” said Giesler, adding that in the four years he has been riding in this area, he has yet to encounter a bear.
While linear access densities exceed 2 km/sq km in the areas of Lynx Creek, Beaver Mines and the Lower Castle River, densities in the core habitat areas of
Livingstone and Waterton are estimated at 0.28 km/sq km and 0.37 km/sq km, respectively, well below the threshold.
Giesler said no new roads or trails have been constructed in the area for the past three years, and that the majority of OHV and ATV riders in the area respect the land and abide by the rules, in addition to maintaining existing trails.
Douglas said this should be the case in all core grizzly habitat.
“If we are serious about grizzly bear recovery, the only responsible action is to halt new road and trail building until thresholds defined in the recovery plan are met.”
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