Thursday, January 12, 2006

Alta government won't release grizzly population study as hunt decision nears

Wow, even the Canadian government keeps information it sees as harmful secret. And I thought they were more open.

And unfortunately, this is the mentality behind it: "Grizzlies are being managed as a resource like oil and gas and trees. There's a mentality of, 'There's no point having wildlife if we're not making money out of it.'Â "

Alta government won't release grizzly population study as hunt decision nears

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1845&ncid=1845&e=
8&u=/cpress/20060111/ca_pr_on_na/grizzly_hunt

BOB WEBERWed Jan 11, 5:51 PM ET

EDMONTON (CP) - As a decision on whether Alberta will allow a spring grizzly hunt approaches, the provincial government has refused to release results of an extensive population count of the bears.

Even the committee supposed to be advising the government on grizzlies can't get the survey, leaving its industry and environmental representatives frustrated and concerned the population is lower than feared.

"It's so outrageous and so wrong that they are able to sit on this important information," Tracy Henderson of the Grizzly Bear Alliance said Wednesday.

Concerned over reports of declining grizzly numbers, Alberta's Sustainable Resources Department formed a grizzly bear "recovery team" in 2003 with both industry and environmental representation to advise it on how to proceed.

It also commissioned a two-year survey using the best available techniques. The first part of the survey was delivered in 2004 and the second was completed recently.

"These have been the best population estimates that have ever been achieved," said Gord Stenhouse, one of the authors of the report. "It's good data."

So far, however, it's secret.

Two environmental groups recently lost an application under Freedom of Information laws to see it. The government's own recovery team can't get it either.

"We always anticipated we were an integral part of the information flow," said Rob Staniland, a biologist with Talisman Energy who sits on the team.

"I expected we'd have that information last year. We're really suspicious now."

Dave Ealey, a spokesman for Sustainable Resources, said the report has been under peer and editorial review since 2004.

"Any research-based product should go through peer review for verification," he said. He didn't know when the review would be complete.

Although the data is not considered reliable enough to provide to the recovery team or the public, it is being taken into account in determining whether the spring grizzly hunt will go ahead, Ealey said. That decision is expected by early February.

Before the study was conducted, Alberta's grizzly population was estimated at about 700 - although that number comes from mathematical modelling and not from real research.

Still, the number was low enough for the government's endangered species conservation committee to recommend designating the bears as threatened and stopping the annual spring grizzly hunt. Neither recommendation was acted on.

Nigel Douglas of the Alberta Wilderness Association said the government's reluctance to release the report suggests bear populations are even lower than previously thought.

"If it would have been good news, it would have been released pretty quickly," he suggested.

Douglas wants to be able to see the decision is based on good science.

"The science is not being released. You're left with rumour and supposition."

He said holding on to the report points to a mindset in the provincial government.

"Grizzlies are being managed as a resource like oil and gas and trees. There's a mentality of, 'There's no point having wildlife if we're not making money out of it.'Â "

British Columbia also continues to allow the hunting of grizzly bears.

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