Superintendents Don’t Know Best

By Beacon Staff

The comments of these former park superintendants (Jan. 2 Beacon: “Former Park Superintendents Call for Increased Protection of Glacier, Waterton Parks”) were bitterly amusing to me as a transplanted Canadian, who has not only hunted, fished and backpacked in this area for the last 45 years, but also worked as a national park employee. I’ve watched as superintendents like these and the bureaucracy they have overseen have allowed commercial interests in our existing national parks to expand to the point where they no longer resemble what they were up until the late 70s.

We are told by the National Parks Conservation Association that we should listen to what these retired superintendents say because they spent their entire careers managing protected areas and therefore know what is best for this particular area – even though most have never spent any time there. Given the spread of commercial recreation and the impact of commercialism on parks such as Banff and Yellowstone while being managed by wise superintendents such as these, it becomes obvious that they actually don’t “know what is best” after all. The policies may possibly have been political creations, but I don’t recall any superintendents resigning in protest to fight the decay of national parks on either side of the border. Pity that they couldn’t have showed a bit of spine and stood up for something then, instead of waiting until they had a pension securely in hand before demanding change.

Furthermore, it is no accident that this area has the highest density of grizzly bears in North America, considerably greater than the neighboring national parks in both countries. Dr. Valerius Geist, PhD, a well known and published biologist and Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science, University of Calgary, has covered this in detail in his paper on habituation – referring to parks as death zones for bears. If the opinion of parks employees means anything, Parks Canada agrees with Dr. Geist’s work on habituation. In Canada, the highest mortality rate for grizzly bears is in the national parks – and the last thing British Columbia locals want to see is the same thing happen to these bears if the area is ever turned into a national park.

This area that local BC residents refer to as the “South Country” has been a favored recreation destination for many of them for generations. That ongoing link with this area is why so many local BC residents have and continue to be passionate about protecting this area – long before it became the cause de jour. Not just from environmental damage, but from “parkies” who are never there to do the sweat jobs, are mostly from other provinces and cities, and are working so diligently to put an end to their continued use of the area for hunting and other forms of politically incorrect recreation. The most recent evidence of that is the local groups and residents that took part in the Southern Rocky Mountain Management Plan and Cranbrook West Recreation Management Strategy. I participated in both of those, including a group that reviewed commercial recreation tenure applications for these areas. Those crying the loudest for this area to be a national park were most conspicious by their absence. Which, come to think of it, is normally the case in situations like these. The locals do all the grinding work, while those from elsewhere spill a lot of ink telling locals what they really ought to be doing.

I have no doubt that the parkies (and those who will climb aboard any cause that includes restrictions on hunting, trapping, motorized recreation, etc.) will continue their efforts to have this area of the South Country turned into a park. Those signing on for this, hopefully, will not be surprised when local BC residents opposed to this push back, and push back hard. Montanans would not take well to British Columbians coming down here to tell local residents that the Flathead National Forest should be added on to Glacier National Park, with the accompanying ban on hunting, logging, motorized recreation, etc., so don’t expect anything less from British Columbia when US interests head north to tell the locals what areas they should put in parks.

Maybe these retired superintendents and their should work on cleaning up the mess they and their fellow superintendants made in parks like Banff and Yellowstone before telling BC locals what they should do to protect an area that has been looked after locally for generations. Management by local biologists and resource managers, not political animals in Ottawa, Washington, and assorted lobby groups.

Rick Lowe lives in Whitefish.

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