After more than six years of hard work and changes in the community, Castlegar has finally earned official Bear Smart Community status.
Castlegar is only the 10th community in B.C. to achieve the designation.
Ten years ago, Castlegar was routinely at the top of the provincial list for another reason — its high number of human-bear conflicts, with numbers of bears destroyed as a result.
Castlegar now has bear-resistant garbage cans in every city park and public space and in every household and several attractant management programs. The number of conflicts began to dramatically decrease after residential bear-resistant garbage cans were introduced in 2016.
Bear Smart representative Mike Badry officially presented the designation at the May 17 city council meeting.
He praised the tireless work by former WildsafeBC coordinator Jenny Wallace as a main reason the city was able to move forward with changes. He also listed Castlegar CAO Chris Barlow, director of corporate services Tracey Butler and West Kootenay Conservation Service officers Ben Beetlestone and Joe Carevetta.
“A lot of people thought we couldn’t get there, because of where we live,” said Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstibitoff. “I am so happy we finally got that plaque.”
Councillor Dan Rye added, “It has been a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication by staff and council, but we really need to take our hats off to Jenny [Wallace].”
The Bear Smart Community Program was designed by the Ministry of Environment. It is a voluntary, preventative conservation measure that encourages communities, businesses and individuals to work together to reduce conflicts with bears.
There are six criteria a community must meet in order to achieve the status including a bear hazard assessment, conflict management plan, an education program, bylaw changes and a bear-proof waste management system.