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Board criticizes B.C. for failing to manage threatened grizzly bear population

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August 26, 2017 - 6:30 PM

VICTORIA - The British Columbia government is being criticized by an independent watchdog for its management of a threatened grizzly bear population in the Kettle-Granby area.

The Forests Practices Board said the province hasn't effectively managed the risk forestry roads pose to the bears.

It also said forestry licensees have not met density limits recommended by the government on the roads.

Low numbers of grizzly bears in the Kettle-Granby area north of Grand Forks near the U.S. border first became a concern in the 1990s, although the board said the population has stabilized or increased in the last 20 years.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development confirmed a 2015 inventory of the grizzly bear population in the area found an increase in numbers along with an expansion of the range the bear inhabit.

Still, the board said the population of grizzlies remain threatened as it is about half of what the area is estimated to support.

Board chairman Tim Ryan said the government does not have a recovery strategy for the bear population and hasn't followed through on a promise to develop a recovery plan.

"Research indicates that limiting road density and road use are effective approaches as grizzly bear numbers are often higher in areas with fewer roads," he said in a news release.

"Government chose to rely on forest professionals and forest licensees to voluntarily reduce the amount of forestry road in the Kettle-Granby area, rather than making it a legal requirement, but that did not happen."

In a statement, the ministry says a government action regulation order in effect since 2010 is protecting wildlife in the 5,400-square-kilometre area, including grizzlies, by restricting forest activity in critical habitat and prohibiting road construction.

It said the board "did not investigate the effectiveness of the order" in its report.

Ryan said the government should "revisit its approach to management of this threatened bear population, implement an access management planning process, and consider the use of legal tools."

The ministry said the order is under review following the latest population inventory and it will also respond to the board's report.

The report issued by the board on Thursday was done after an investigation prompted by a public complaint.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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