by Dave Butler, CMH Director of Sustainability
Three years ago, Nature Conservancy of Canada signed a new partnership agreement with Canadian Mountain Holidays Inc., their first partnership with a tourism business. The partnership is meant to build on the strengths and common values of the two organizations, and it involves direct and in-kind contributions from CMH to the land conservation work of NCC. An exciting project to come out of this partnership is a unique NCC – CMH trip at CMH Bugaboo Lodge this July. Guests on the trip will not only have an opportunity to explore the world-famous Bugaboos, but will support NCC’s conservation efforts at the same time.
Recently,I sat down with wildlife biologist Michael Proctor to talk about this trip. Proctor, who specializes in grizzly bears, will be a special guest on the trip and will share his stories and work along the trail and back at the lodge.
Learn more about the CMH / NCC adventure at CMH Bugaboo Lodge July 18 – 21, 2010 by visiting our website. To secure your spot and take advantage of this opportunity to spend time and learn from Michael Proctor, contact CMH Summer Adventures at 1.800.661.0252. In continued support for the NCC and their mission here in Canada, CMH will contribute 10% of the trip cost to the NCC for every guest on this Short Escape.
DB: Michael, please tell us a bit about your background? How did you get involved with grizzly bears, and why is that species of interest to you?
MP: I have always been interested in keeping our natural systems intact and functioning. As a young man I lived in the wilderness for many years, no roads, boat access, no electricity or phones. It was there that I got interested in becoming a wildlife biologist. I got involved with grizzly bears because the are one of the best umbrella species, that is, what affects them also affects many other species. And for being one of the biggest grumpiest carnivores around,they are rather sensitive to human impacts. When you combine those two factors, they are an excellent single species conservation icon. From a biological perspective, if we can keep them on the landscape, we can keep a suite of other species out there as well, they represent “keeping the wild wild.”
DB: What are of some of the biggest challenges we face in South Eastern BC in the context of grizzly bear conservation?
MP: Southern Canada is where most Canadians live. SE BC is one of the prettiest and attractive places in southern Canada. Therefore, I think we will see a growing human population in many areas of SE BC over the coming decades. Our biggest challenge in grizzly bear conservation is to accommodate those people in a way that also allows grizzly bears to survive in the region. Grizzly bear conservation is all about managing for peaceful coexistence. We need to leave some backcountry for their habitat security, some front-country for them to move through human settled valleys to get to adjacent mountain ranges, and we need to not attract them into our home-sites and farms where they often end up getting killed. The good news is that we can very likely accomplish these goals, if we understand them and apply ourselves.
DB: In your work with bears, what’s the most interesting or unusual thing you’ve seen?
MP: One day last summer I had just finished putting a radio collar on an adult female. Her two yearlings were walking around behind us watching with great curiosity and nervousness the whole time, about an hour. After we moved away and the mother started to wake up from the immobilization drug, the yearlings were slowly coming in to investigate what had happened to their mom. They were so affectionate, they just wanted to touch her and be in contact with her. Then one of them noticed the new white radio collar around her neck. He / or she reached out with those big long claws and very delicately touched the new gawdy necklace, you could just see that young bear thinking, what the hell is this they did to my mom, it is a big world out there beyond our safe life wandering these hills.
DB: What’s your connection with NCC, and why are you a supporter?
MP: I learned about the Nature Conservancy of Canada about 25 years ago before I was a wildlife biologist. I was very impressed that they were in the business of quietly buying important conservation land. No table pounding, no yelling at politicians. Just getting the job done, for good. Now I find myself in the conservation biology world and realized they can be a powerful ally. I work on understanding conservation solutions for the wide-ranging grizzly bear. One of the most important things I do is understand large scale fragmentation of grizzly bear populations, and what might be done to reverse those trends that threaten their long term persistence here in SE BC. It turns out, one of our most important tools is to buy a few strategic private lands in areas that allow bears to move between mountain ranges without getting into trouble. The Nature Conservancy helps us (and the bears) do just that.
DB: Tell us why you’re looking forward to the joint NCC-CMH trip in July?
MP: One of my favorite places here in the Kootenays is high up in the alpine. Besides being my favorite habitat, it is also one of the favorite habitats of the grizzly bear. There is no better place to spend a few days hiking and relaxing with others who are truly interested in the conservation of nature. And to boot, I don't have to carry all my gear on my back to get there, I get to fly.