Letter to the Editor. Jasper Fitzhugh February 13, 2014
Parks Canada describes the grizzly bear as an “icon of the Canadian Rockies wilderness” and, in the park management plan, commits repeatedly to “maintaining and improving” its habitat security. Unfortunately this does not stop the agency from backing development plans by a commercial interest for a luxury hotel in what is “high-quality” grizzly habitat—namely the Maligne Valley.
Due to funding cuts by the federal government, Parks lacks precise data for grizzlies, but research elsewhere shows that in mountainous areas valley-bottoms provide the best habitat and movement corridors. Observations indicate that from five to 10 grizzlies use the Maligne Valley each year and females with cubs have been seen repeatedly at Opal Hills and adjacent to the Maligne Lake day use area.
Since the 2010 management plan, the emphasis has been on “visitor experience” and commitment to “facilitating memorable experiences.” But according to visitors, the most memorable experience is seeing a grizzly bear. Parks doesn’t even need to facilitate that—it just needs to give bears room to feed, mate and raise their cubs.
Parks’ recent Situation Analysis for the Maligne Valley points out that two main threats to grizzly bears are “displacement and habituation.” How does it reconcile this with agreeing to consider a 66-bed hotel, 15 tent cabins and upwards of 150 people in the area during what once would have been the quiet evening feeding time for grizzlies in one of the valley’s “pinch-points?”
Out in the province, 31 grizzly bears were killed in 2013, the highest number since hunting of this threatened species was suspended in 2006. People were to blame for 26 of the deaths. With the Alberta government’s seeming inability to protect the grizzly, the national parks are becoming ever more critical to its survival in the province.
This whole charade of Parks Canada’s assurances of protection of ecological integrity on the one hand and for-profit development on the other leaves the agency with what might be described as a split personality—which it now seems to be trying to cover up by changing its policies to fit with Ottawa’s new development schemes.
We are in danger of losing one of our most magnificent species from the Maligne Valley unless the federal government stops giving preference to commercial profits instead of protecting Canada’s national park heritage and the endangered wildlife struggling to survive there.
Jasper Environmental Association