(Editor's note: This letter was sent to The Question and addressed to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.)
Dear SLRD Directors,
As a professional grizzly bear biologist of long-standing in the province of B.C., I was asked by an interested party to review the potential impacts of Innergex/ Creek Power Inc.'s Upper Lillooet River Hydro Project (ULRHP) on grizzly bears in the area. Based on my extensive review, I respectfully request that you vote against the Temporary Use Permits (TUPs) for this project.
What I have learned from my extensive experience and research in environmental impacts (that extend all the way back to the proposed Moran Dam on the Fraser River!) is that it is all too easy to focus on just the impact of the footprint of an industrial project and not on how incremental it can be to sensitive species like the grizzly bear when joined to other impacts that have already affected their population viability.
I have also learned that the surviving grizzlies in the south coastal mountains of B.C. are the last left in North America of the "dryland" grizzly bear that lives in mountains in the lee of the coast ranges and feeds on such things as whitebark pine nuts and salmon. All grizzly bear populations in the U.S. to the south of this B.C. area that used to represent the dryland salmon bear ecotype are now extinct.
Thus, voting against the TUPs will send a message to the provincial government and could result in stopping and/or delaying the construction of the ULRHP, which would be beneficial to the four threatened grizzly bear population units (GBPUs) in the region. The provincial government continues to completely mismanage our wildlife, wild rivers and forests as evidenced by its approval of the ULRHP in the face of how few grizzly bears remain in the south coastal mountains. There are currently only an estimated 58 grizzly bears in the Squamish-Lillooet GBPU; two in the Garibaldi-Pitt GBPU; 203 in the South Chilcotin GBPU and 23 in the Stein-Nahatlatch GBPU.
The provincial government has utterly failed to take the necessary measures to ensure the recovery of these GBPUs in the face of a multitude of proposed developments in the region (another ski resort, more river diversion projects, Taseko's New Prosperity Mine, a LNG plant, etc.), which if approved, will result in these grizzly bears eventually winking out just as they have their now extinct cousins to the south. The provincial government appears to be wilfully blind to the cumulative effects of ongoing and future industrial development on grizzly bears and species at risk in the SLRD. Do you want your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to grow up in these once beautiful wilderness mountains that we have allowed to become severely fragmented by industrial developments, but devoid of the grizzly bear? Or will your legacy be the survival of grizzly bears and wilderness in the SLRD?
It is therefore imperative that the SLRD directors stand up for the survival of the last resident grizzly bears and vote AGAINST the TUPs, ensuring a legacy that you and future generations can be proud of.
Wayne P. McCrory, bear biologist
New Denver, B.C.