We can't let British Columbia's grizzly bears disappear.

Photo by iwona_kellie | flickr.com

Photo by iwona_kellie | flickr.com

A new study by researchers in British Columbia has shown that the province’s grizzly bear hunting program isn’t as sustainable as was once thought. These findings agree with the sentiment expressed by the European Union in 2004 when importing grizzly trophies from B.C. was banned; and they raise some serious questions about what exactly the people in charge of issuing permits are thinking.

The B.C. government’s position is that the number of permits sold each year is based on a scientific approach to managing the resource. Completely setting aside the fact that scientists at the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University disagree (the province’s numbers don’t factor in collisions with vehicles, unreported kills by farmers, and a host of other factors contributing to bear mortality), one is left to ask the question of why bears are considered a harvestable resource at all.

Chalk it up to human arrogance. For a long time, people have held the view that we own everything on the planet and we are allowed to take what we want. Things only exist if we allow them to exist. It is time to put these ideas behind us. If a particular bear poses a real threat to human life, it absolutely needs to be managed; but going out into the woods to find a bear that has never harmed anyone and to kill it for the sole purpose of feeling like a superhero and acquiring a new rug is barbaric and ignorant.

Why are hunting permits even granted for grizzly bears in the year 2013? Shouldn’t the people making these decisions listen to the science that would tell them there is a problem with wiping out an apex predator (as the data suggests they are on the road to doing)? The only apparent reasons for this hunt are that people are willing to pay money for the privilege of hunting a bear and that a small portion of the electorate are vocal hunters who will make trouble for any politicians that oppose their interests. It is important to note that this portion even represents a minority of hunters.

At some point, the rest of us (the vast majority) who believe that having grizzly bears exist in the wild in British Columbia is important have to say that enough is enough. The moment that last wild grizzly in the province is shot, B.C. will become a different place. Far from the image that so many people have of a province living with and appreciating the wild out-of-doors that gives it its identity, B.C. will become a place where ignorance, arrogance, and stubbornness trump environmental responsibility and common sense.

It is up to the people we elect to make good decisions informed by sound science and to exercise caution if things even begin to look slightly sketchy. Right now in B.C., that isn’t happening and it should be making more people angry. Most people care about the integrity of nature and value grizzly bears simply for existing. Ask any of the outfitters in the province that run grizzly bear viewing tours and they will tell you that people who come to the province to spend tourism dollars in the hope of seeing something majestic and impressive contribute just as much, if not more, than the province gets from allowing people to kill bears.

It is time to put a stop to mismanagement and hold decision-makers accountable before it is too late. If grizzly bears disappear from the forests of B.C., everyone in the province will have blood on their hands. Politicians and bureaucrats cannot be allowed to put it there.