September 6, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 36

State's complacency is irresponsible

Today, from the safety of my car, I observed a group of tourists pushing the limits of a juvenile brownie at Chilkoot foraging for filleted fish near and on the bloody fish cleaning table in the river at the campground. Several elderly, feeble-looking folks stood among a crowd standing within 10 to 20 feet of the bear – completely exposed and nowhere near a vehicle. Although the bear appeared largely disinterested in people, occasionally he would agitatedly run to the campground, paw around in a fire pit and run back to the fish-cleaning table.

State parks director Ben Ellis says he chose not to fund the bear monitor position this summer because, the last time he was at the river, he didn’t see any bears and didn’t think activity was enough this year to warrant the funding.  He also cited budget shortfalls. 

This procrastination and complacency are reckless and irresponsible.Is Mr. Ellis waiting for a body, someone’s mother, father, son, daughter, to justify funding? I agree with the Chilkoot Bear Foundation. We must take control of this situation now. Young bears are already dying. We can’t stop the bear watching, but we can demand protection/management for the hordes of curious and largely uneducated humans and hungry bears who are drawn to this incredible resource.

With over $13 billion in our state coffers and decades of documentation regarding conditioning of bears to humans, can’t we fund long-term protection of a resource so many value, depend on and profit from?  

Heidi Robichaud