Grizzly Politics in British Columbia

ChrisRaincoast has attained a copy of a soon-to-be published opinion piece that calls for the grizzly bear to be de-listed from the US Endangered Species Act. The opinion piece is scheduled to appear in the next issue of the International Bear Association’s official publication, urging the association’s membership to support the Bush administration’s proposed grizzly de-listing. One of the signatories, Matt Austin, works for the Biodiversity Branch in the BC Ministry of the Environment as a Species Specialist.

The Bush administration is pushing the grizzly bear de-listing for purely political reasons in order to make it easier for industry to log, mine and drill for oil and gas on public land in the US. The BC government, through
Matt Austin, is supporting this politicized effort in the US in order to lower the bar for grizzly bear protection in Canada. It is highly inappropriate, but not unexpected given their track record, for this ministry to publicly support this political maneuver by the Bush administration. This is clearly beyond the purview of provincial civil servants and once again reveals the biased political motivations of the bureaucrats in the BC government who are ostensibly in charge of managing grizzly bears.

The move to de-list the grizzly is highly controversial and has been roundly criticized by US conservation
organizations and non-government scientists alike. The administration proposes to start by de-listing the Yellowstone population, which has grown from 200 bears in 1975 to approximately 600 now. The de-listing would leave Yellowstone grizzlies without current protections under the Endangered Species Act in some 3 million acres outside their core habitat.

Is it a coincidence that the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has recently recommended to the federal minister of the
environment, Stephane Dion, that the grizzly bear in this country be listed under the Species at Risk Act? So far, the federal minister has refused to list the grizzly despite COSEWIC’s recommendation. If the de-listing in the US goes through it will make it even more difficult to get the grizzly in Canada federally listed. There is no provincial species at risk legislation in BC.

This incident is yet another example of why there is a need to clean houseat the provincial Ministry of Environment. We have our work cut out for us.

Chris Genovali
From the trenches in Victoria, BC
August 2005

A verison of this article appeared in the August 12 edition of the e-zine CounterPunch

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