British Columbia

Report criticizes B.C. management of threatened grizzlies

B.C.’s independent forestry watchdog has slammed the province’s management of a threatened grizzly population, saying the government hasn’t properly handled the risks posed by logging roads.

Investigation from Forest Practices Board finds province failed to reduce density of logging roads

A grizzly bear eats buffalo berries in this handout photo from Parks Canada. (File photo/Alex Taylor/Parks Canada)

B.C.'s independent forestry watchdog has slammed the province's management of a threatened grizzly population, saying the government hasn't properly handled the risks posed by logging roads.

The investigation from the B.C. Forest Practices Board was prompted by a complaint from the group Friends and Residents of the North Fork about forestry practices in the Kettle-Granby area.

The group had charged that the province was putting grizzlies at risk by not creating legally enforced allowable densities for roads in the area.

According to a report from the forest practices board, that approach failed to protect the local bear population.

"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," board chair Tim Ryan said in a news release.

"It's time for government to revisit its approach to management of this threatened bear population, implement an access management planning process and consider the use of legal tools."

Research suggests areas with dense roads networks make for poor grizzly habitat, according to Ryan.

Conservationists have been concerned about the bear population in the Kettle-Granby area since the 1990s because of low numbers.

"Government does not have a recovery strategy for this grizzly bear population and never completed its promised recovery plan work," Ryan said.

The report includes several recommendations for improving management of grizzlies in the area.

In a statement, the the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said they would be reviewing the report. 

They also said 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.

With files from The Canadian Press