Politics, Bears and a great possibility

The office phone has been silent for weeks now and I?ve been busy chasing politicians instead of bears. I?ve had the opportunity to meet with some of the candidates for mayor and council and to discuss the bear issue, the stats for the past year, future program goals and how we can work together. I hope to meet with all the candidates prior to the election as I feel the bear issue needs to be addressed more seriously.

It?s been a bad year but we?ve been lucky. We?ve had 81+ complaints this year regarding bears, several situations when the safety of our citizens was seriously threatened and six bears destroyed as a result. I am sure however that if the mayor, council members, citizens and Bear Aware all work together, the results could be exceptional. It?s my ambition to establish a collaborative and cooperative relationship with mayor and council for the well being of our citizens, for public safety and for the conservation of bears.

What do the candidates have to say? Sorry, Bear Aware remains neutral regarding the election as we hope to establish a good working relationship with whomever is elected. If you want to know where the candidates stand on the issue, just ask them!

Let?s look at something else:

?Bear Smart? is a classification of community that has demonstrated a proactive approach regarding bear/human conflicts and their management. NO community in BC has yet achieved this status although Whistler is close.

I believe that with a MINIMUM of time, effort and investment, Tumbler Ridge could be the first community in BC to achieve Bear Smart status. The results would mean yet another reason to promote tourism, business, industry, investment, development and entice new citizens to move here. Hotel owners for example, could boast how their community is the ONLY Bear Smart community in BC. Feathers in everyone?s cap as it were.

The community needs to do the following:

1. Prepare a bear hazard assessment of the community and surrounding area.

2. Prepare a bear/human conflict management plan that is designed to address the bear hazards and land-use conflicts identified in the previous step.

3. Revise planning and decision-making documents to be consistent with the bear/human conflict management plan in step 2.

4. Implement a continuing education program directed at all sectors of the community (i.e. the Bear Aware program).

5. Develop and maintain a bear-proof municipal solid waste management system.6. Implement ?Bear Smart? bylaws prohibiting the provision of food to bears as a result of intent, neglect, or irresponsible management of attractants.

So as you can see, we?ve already got 4 and 5 completed; all we need now is the assessment by a provincial biologist, a set of bylaws and a management plan in place to be designated Bear Smart. There are even financial grants available to assist the community in the endeavour. Another bonus is, after achieving the status, the RCMP and the Conservation Officer can begin using non-lethal techniques of bear management (i.e. aversive conditioning). EVERYBODY WINS (and bears too).

As of today, the BC Conservation Foundation (the non-profit organization I work for) through the Bear Aware program, has invested almost $12,000 in Tumbler Ridge to promote public safety and bear conservation and yesterday, I received another $2,500.00 worth of funding from the BCCF to help our program promote the cause here.

We are here to help, to promote public safety, to promote the conservation of bears and to work together with the community. We have invested in Tumbler Ridge and will continue to do so but we need your help. Whether you are the Mayor, a council member or a citizen, let?s work together for the well being of our community and our bears.

?Till next week, bear with me (and talk to your candidates!)