|Safari Club International has a better plan for the management of grizzly bears in British Columbia, Canada. Whether officials heed that sage advice remains in question following the announcement of a halt to all grizzly bear hunting in that province.
In making this decision, BC officials ignored the facts that the healthy population of grizzly bears in the province can be hunted sustainably without any harm to the viability of the population.
When wildlife becomes a political football, science-based management and conservation are thrown out the window in favor of popularity whims that change whenever the political winds blow from a different direction.
Worldwide, science-based wildlife management and conservation efforts are recognized as the most effective way to assure there will be viable populations into the future.
Management via the ballot box has proven to be ineffective, at best, and actually harmful to wildlife in some instances.
“We at Safari Club International are deeply troubled by the recent announcement of the closure of the grizzly bear hunting in British Columbia,” wrote SCI President Paul Babaz in a letter to Honourable Minister Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We feel that this decision has been based on emotion and not science. Decisions of this magnitude must be made, using sound science-based conservation. Emotions must be left out of the equation. As well, there should have been stakeholder consultations before finalizing such a momentous decision.
“As I am sure you are aware, the closure of this hunt will have far-reaching effects on the current population of grizzly bears. The entire ecosystem, animals and habitat will also be affected by this immediate change. Have there been credible studies or consultations to see what these effects might include? Has the current government of British Columbia considered the far-reaching economic effects in British Columbia resulting from this closure — everything from outfitters, taxidermists, logistics companies, hotels, restaurants, sporting goods stores, rental car companies, airlines and fuel stations? They will all be negatively affected.
“We understand that this is a very complex issue, which is all the more reason why it needs to be addressed properly and not in some politically motivated knee-jerk fashion. SCI is not an outside interest in this matter, but is comprised of members from around the world, including many in Canada where SCI has a number of local chapters and staff in the nation’s capital.
“Rather than an outright closure that will have many negative unintended consequences for society and the bears themselves, SCI recommends a simple regulation change that can ensure that all grizzly bears harvested be utilized by the hunter/outfitter, since that seems to be one of the sticking points. We feel that this regulation change will appease the majority of British Columbia residents, as well as being equitable for the industry and business-related constituents,” SCI President Babaz concluded.
There are more grizzly bears in British Columbia than anywhere else in North America, and the grizzly bears in BC have been studied more than anywhere else in Canada.
Historically, the hunting of grizzly bears in BC was halted in 2001. Following a brief grizzly bear hunting moratorium in the spring of 2001, an Independent Scientific Panel was appointed by the government in consultation with the International Association for Bear Research and Management.
The Panel was assigned to conduct a review to ensure that hunting would not threaten the long-term viability of the grizzly bear population in BC. A thorough and positive report was released in March 2003. It provided some recommendations for improvement, but concluded that “the harvest of grizzly bears in BC can be managed on a sustainable basis, with minimal risk of population declines.”
That led the way for the BC Liberals using sound science to reopen the hunt.
Current population estimates indicate there are approximately 15,000 to16,000 grizzlies in BC. With an annual harvest rate of approximately 250 to 350 bears, the hunting of these bears is sustainable.
SCI has a better plan – that British Columbia’s grizzly bear population should be managed through sustainable hunting. But for now, those whose job it is to conserve the province’s wildlife population are not listening to those, like SCI, who base their conclusions on reason and science.
SCI Foundation funds an ongoing research project by the University of Alberta in the South Rockies and Flathead study areas, a region with significant bear mortality from human conflict. The project suggests that, rather than banning hunting outright, management actions such as increasing public safety standards in backcountry camps or closing roads in high grizzly density areas would be effective. Results will be important for the future of grizzly bear management across North America.
For more information about grizzly bears, visit:
|Safari Club International – First For Hunters is the leader in protecting the freedom to hunt and in promoting wildlife conservation worldwide. SCI’s approximately 200 Chapters represent all 50 of the United States as well as 106 other countries. SCI’s proactive leadership in a host of cooperative wildlife conservation, outdoor education and humanitarian programs, with the SCI Foundation and other conservation groups, research institutions and government agencies, empowers sportsmen to be contributing community members and participants in sound wildlife management and conservation. Visit the home page www.SafariClub.org, or call (520) 620-1220 for more information.
International Headquarters Tucson, Arizona · Washington, District of Columbia · Ottawa, Canada