CALGARY — Alberta’s sustainable development minister says conservation groups should help fund government efforts to protect grizzly bears.
Mel Knight says the groups should put their money where their mouths are and match the $150,000 the province spends annually in reducing conflicts between the bruins and humans.
Nigel Douglas of the Alberta Wilderness Association says Knight’s statements show the government doesn’t take grizzly conservation seriously.
Douglas says Knight is trying to deflect accountability for the bears’ drop in numbers to a recent count of 691 from around 1,000 in 2002.
He points out Ontario spends $4.5 million on the same type of program.
And he suggests Alberta is refusing to act on a government committee’s recommendation from 2002 to designate grizzlies a threatened species.
“Managing wildlife is the Alberta government’s job — it’s a fundamental part of what Sustainable Resource Development should be doing,” said Douglas.
“We’re asking the government to do its job to regulate activities on public land.”
Worst of all, he said the province has done little to control roads — mainly built by industry — that threaten the bears’ habitat.
“They’ve known for years what they should be doing,” he said.
Knight said the province’s Bear Smart program is paying dividends while the province is moving to bar access to roads built in sensitive areas.
And he said increasing the grizzly protection budget isn’t necessarily the answer.
“I don’t subscribe to the view spending a lot more money is going to have a different result on the ground,” he said.
Despite accusations of department budget cuts, said Knight, provincial officials are 30 per cent more efficient in monitoring the animals than a few years go.