Room to roam

I believe everyone who visits the backcountry can recognize some signs of a changing climate.

I believe everyone who visits the backcountry can recognize some signs of a changing climate.

Who hasn’t wondered how wildlife is affected by warmer winters, hotter summers, less snow pack and earlier melts? Regular visitors to the backcountry will have noticed these changes.

Who hasn’t noticed the lower stream flows in recent years during the summer? Warmer streams are not good for the fish in our rivers. Is anyone out there a little worried about the longer wildfire seasons and more severe fires that scientists are predicting for our area in not 50 but more like 10 years?

It’s important to me to let everyone know that our region, the Southern Rockies, is globally significant. You’ve probably heard that before and are about to yawn right now.

But it’s true. The good news is that, although climate change is affecting wildlife all over the planet, our region still has a fighting chance.

I’d like to tell you about an interesting report that outlines the challenges and also offers some solutions.

It’s called Safe Havens, Safe Passages for Vulnerable Fish and Wildlife. It was prepared for the Canadian Wildlife Conservation Society by Dr. John Weaver.

Weaver’s main conclusion after looking at all the evidence is that wildlife will need ‘room to roam’ to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the southern Canadian Rockies and Montana.

He focused on six vulnerable species—bull trout, Westslope cutthroat trout, wolverine, grizzly bear, mountain goat and bighorn sheep—and their habitat needs.

He drew from many other scientific studies and was able to create a workable plan that could be adopted by our Province, First Nations and local stakeholders. The plan features solutions for wildlife connectivity over roads and passes (safe passages), and identifies important pockets of habitat (safe havens.)

Weaver recommends a portfolio of conservation lands including a ‘Southern Canadian Rockies Wildlife Management Area’ (WMA) that would conserve 66% of key habitats on 54% of its land base. The WMA designation would emphasize fish, wildlife and water values while allowing other responsible land uses such as hunting, and high standard forestry.

The Flathead River basin also merits very strong conservation consideration, says Weaver, due to its remarkable biological diversity. He endorses a new National or Provincial Park on the B.C. side and Wilderness areas on the Montana side.

I personally invite residents, hunters and other interested people to review the report by visiting


Ryland Nelson