Thursday, June 03, 2010

Grizzly Bears Declared an Endangered Species in Alberta

The province of Alberta has finally made this important decision to designate grizzly bears as an endangered species in our province.

This is a very important policy step and one that is very aligned with the values of Albertans.  We at Cambridge Strategies have done a number of conjoint studies on forestry and oil sands development issues dating back to 2005.  In every case a significant value driver in the hearts and minds of Albertans has been habitat protection.

The industries like forestry, conventional oil and gas and oil sands are all becoming aware, and sometimes painfully aware, that their social license to continue to operate as our tenants on the lands owned by Albertans requires a higher degree of responsible stewardship than in the past.  Albertans are very aware of the need for a long term view when it comes to dealing with both renewable resources like forestry and non-renewable resource like oil, gas and oil sands. 

Forestry and oil sands developers do take a long term view of their responsibilities be it reforestation or land reclamation in the case of oil sands based disturbances.  I like the Alberta forest operators and believe they by and large have the right corporate values to justify their social licence to operate in our forests.  It was not always that way but with effective pressure from environmentalists and public opinion, they have seen the light.  Now the forestry sector is reformed and worthy of our respect as our tenants.  Unfortunately due to mountain pine beetle, climate change and market volatility, they are having a tough time making it with the conventional business model.

The conventional oil and gas sector also has a duty to reclaim lands from abandoned well sites, seismic lines and roadways but they are all too often less than diligent in fulfilling these duties.  They get enormous subsidies and royalty relief but still don't seem to understand that they are in danger of losing any modicum of public confidence in their integrity as respected operators entitled to responsibly exploit Alberta's natural resources.  As we see reduced market demands coming, unless the conventional energy sector starts to see the writing on the wall they will be the first to be pressured out of business by public opinion.

The move by the government of Alberta to designate grizzlies as endangered has been a longtime coming but it is hopefully not too late to protect this animal.  Biodiversity and habitat protection are highly ranked and core values for Albertans. Congratulations to the Stelmach government for making this move and with luck they will move to force industry for some expanded and enhanced land reclamation to provide a better habitat so these bears can thrive again.