Safe passages

Recently, Canada’s Wildlife Conservation Society released an in-depth report on what’s happening to wildlife in the southern Rockies.

Warmer winters and hotter summers, decreasing snow pack and earlier spring melts, declining stream flows and warmer streams, and longer wildfire seasons with more severe fires.

That’s the direction the regional climate is going, as measured in the field by researchers. Due to these changes, wildlife needs — more than ever — room to roam as they track their shifting habitats.

Wildsight is in favour of long-term, science-based wildlife management and wilderness conservation in the southern Rockies of B.C., and we are impressed by a new study that addresses how climate change fits into the mix, and what can be done to lessen its impact on wildlife.

Recently, Canada’s Wildlife Conservation Society released an in-depth report on what’s happening to wildlife in the southern Rockies and what it means.

The Elk Valley, the Wigwam, the Bull and the Flathead — among others — are part of an ecosystem that’s still home to the most diverse assemblage of carnivore species anywhere in North America.

In the report, Safe Havens, Safe Passages for Vulnerable Fish and Wildlife, WCS Conservation Scientist John Weaver notes that wildlife will need “room to roam” to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the southern Canadian Rockies and Montana.

Weaver focused on six vulnerable species — bull trout, Westslope cutthroat trout, wolverine, grizzly bear, mountain goat and bighorn sheep — and their habitat needs.

He drew from many other scientific studies and was able to create extensive, doable recommendations that echo those of other scientists who have studied the same area.

But his recommendations go a step further: He’s created a workable plan that could be adopted by our Province, First Nations and local stakeholders. It’s a plan that makes sense.

It features solutions for wildlife connectivity over roads and passes (safe passages), and identifies important pockets of habitat (safe havens).

Weaver recommends a portfolio of conservation lands including a “Southern Canadian Rockies Wildlife Management Area” (WMA) that would conserve 66 per cent of key habitats on 54 per cent of its land base. The WMA designation would emphasize fish and wildlife values while allowing other responsible land uses.

The Flathead River basin also merits very strong conservation consideration, says Weaver, due to its remarkable biological diversity. He endorses a new National or Provincial Park on the B.C. side and Wilderness areas on the Montana side.

Wildsight invites residents, hunters and other interested people to review the report by visiting www.wcscanada.org.

 

Ryland Nelson

Wildsight Southern Rockies

Program Manager

Fernie