Alberta logging could hamper USA grizzly bear recovery

Sierra Club Canada, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defence Council, Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition, Valhalla Wilderness Society

Alberta logging could hamper USA grizzly bear recovery
Calgary & Livingstone: While most were making merry during the holidays, the Grinch positioned himself in southwest Alberta’s Castle Special Management Area, located 12 miles north of Glacier National Park; ready to clear-cut log critical habitat for grizzly bears, including those with dual USA and Canadian citizenship.  Despite having designated this Rocky Mountain wildland as a Special Place protected area in 1998 “for the preservation of Alberta’s natural heritage,” the Alberta Government says Spray Lake Sawmills can start any time now inside it with clear-cut logging. Just before Christmas, the company told area residents they would start in two to three weeks.  The logging includes that zoned by the province since 1985 as Critical Wildlife and defined as “crucial to the maintenance of specific fish and wildlife populations.” The Castle is within National Geographic’s Crown of the Continent geotourism area and includes the Castle Mountain Resort, as well as habitat for 223 species listed as rare or at risk of extirpation (extinction within Alberta).
The southwest corner of Alberta is part of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in the USA’s grizzly bear recovery efforts; an area in northwest Montana that extends partway into Canada.  The Alberta portion is known to scientists as a mortality sink for grizzly bears – a place where grizzlies die pre-maturely or are removed, draining the population.  There are an estimated 51 grizzlies there, including those that live both sides of the border.  Known human caused deaths there averaged 2.5 grizzly bears per year over the three years of 2008 through 2010, plus the unreported deaths.  That is well above the threshold of 1.4 deaths per year that scientists estimate the population can sustain in that habitat. 
“Adding logging roads and clear-cutting on top of that will only make the drain in the sink that much bigger,” says Dianne Pachal, Sierra Club Canada’s Alberta Wild Director.
Certain logging practices may simulate fire by stimulating production of bear foods.  However, Alberta’s updated grizzly bear status report concluded the increased motorized access connected with logging in Alberta diminishes any potential positive effects of forest regrowth after logging.
Last spring, Global Forest Watch Canada’s report on old resource roads and trails left open to motorized use in the Castle, despite government access plans saying otherwise, was front-page news in Alberta.  The report, which made use of satellite imagery, concluded there was no longer any secure habitat left there for grizzlies.
“I, together with other grizzly bear scientists have twice previously written Alberta’s Premier emphasizing the need for laws protecting the Castle within its parks system,” says bear biologist Wayne McCrory. “More than a decade of special management in the absence of those laws hasn’t worked to turn around the mortality sink.”
Alberta lists grizzly bears as a threatened species, but the province has no laws requiring habitat protection for threatened and endangered species.   The federal laws only apply directly to lands under federal jurisdiction.  Nor is there any binding requirement that the government agencies work together to accomplish grizzly bear recovery, as there is with the USA’s Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.
Conservation organizations in Alberta note that while residents of the private lands are to be commended for wanting to keep grizzly bears a part of southwest Alberta, the province is expediting habitat loss in the Castle, which is 400 square miles of public land all under Alberta’s jurisdiction. 
The logging plans were developed by the province, even though the logging company has stated it won’t make any money doing the logging.  Alberta rates the Castle as low risk for a pine beetle epidemic and adjacent Waterton Lakes National Park has been successful at managing the risk of wild fire without the use of clear-cut logging. 
Independent surveys found that three-quarters or more of area residents oppose the logging and want to see Wildland Park laws used to secure better protection for the Castle.
For More Information Contact:
Dianne Pachal, Sierra Club Canada, Alberta Wild Director, 403 234-7368
Wayne McCrory, McCrory Wildlife Services Ltd., 250-358-7796
Louisa Wilcox, Natural Resources Defense Council, Senior Wildlife Advocate, 406 222-9561 (ex 3)
Gordon Petersen, Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, President, 403 627-3732

Maps & Background Attached


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