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Alberta’s grizzly may be one step closer to recovery today


Calgary, AB - Today is a significant day for Alberta’s grizzlies. It is the day that the Endangered Species Conservation Committee (ESCC) meets to decide whether grizzly bears should be listed as a threatened species under Alberta’s Wildlife Act. If it makes such a recommendation, it will then be up to Sustainable Resources Development Minister, Mel Knight, to accept this recommendation and ensure the province’s grizzly bears finally take their first steps along the road to recovery.

The ESCC first recommended that bears be given special protection in 2002. The province, however, has been dragging its feet for eight years, during which time many bear have been killed and much of their habitat has been destroyed. “Given the DNA population census results show fewer than 360 mature breeding grizzly bears, we are hopeful that the ESCC again will recommend that Alberta’s grizzlies be listed as threatened,” says Nigel Douglas, Conservation Specialist of the Alberta Wilderness Association. “We also hope that the government will take significant action immediately to protect grizzly bear habitat and eliminate causes of grizzly deaths in Alberta, “he adds.

Meanwhile high on Alberta’s mountain slopes, the snow continues to melt and bears are awakening from hibernation. What kind of future do they face in 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity? It all depends on decisions that are being made today and in the next few weeks.

It is time for the Alberta government to act to protect these animals. “Listing Alberta’s grizzly bears as threatened will commit the government to taking more concerted efforts to recover them,” says Sarah Elmeligi, Senior Conservation Planner for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “We need to reduce the number of access roads and limit motorized access in bear habitats, and we need a more robust BearSmart program to reduce human-bear conflict,” she adds.

Grizzly bears once roamed throughout the whole province. Now they are confined in to a narrow band of land in the foothills and mountains of the province that is becoming increasingly fragmented. This has become the front line of retreat for the continent’s bear populations. “Recovering Alberta’s grizzlies has implications that reach far beyond our provincial boundaries,” says Wendy Francis, Conservation Director of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. “Listing them as threatened in Alberta is the next step to ensure these magnificent mammals survive into the future,” she adds.

And so, as grizzlies take their first uncertain steps out of their dens for this season, what kind of Alberta are they waking up to? Conservation groups hope that bears are waking up to a province that will commit to recovering their populations with legislated protection and the impetus to make significant changes to how their habitat is managed.

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For more information:
Sarah Elmeligi – Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Southern Alberta: 403-688-8641
Nigel Douglas – Alberta Wilderness Association: 403-283-2025
Wendy Francis – Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative: 403-763-8633
Carl Morrison – Sierra Club of Canada: 780-439-1172