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EDITORIAL: Getting bear aware

It's getting dangerous to camp in Squamish again this summer - but for an entirely different reason than last year.

It's getting dangerous to camp in Squamish again this summer - but for an entirely different reason than last year.

While last year Squamish found its reputation as a tourism-friendly place blackened by a small group of idiots, the problem this year is bears.

With five bears shot by conservation officers in Alice Lake and Dryden Creek campgrounds in the past two weeks, Squamish is finding its reputation as Canada's Outdoor Recreation Capital under threat in an entirely new way.

Not that it's the fault of the bears, who are simply reacting instinctively both to the growing human encroachment on their natural habitat and to the attractive food and garbage humans carelessly leave behind. Problem bears are created by the habits of problem people.

You would think it simple common sense not to go out of your way to attract the attention of a large, hungry mammal when you're in their natural habitat.Then again, it's also common sense not to chuck a cigarette butt into tinder-dry bush, and that happens. The principal problem, as ever, is with those who either don't get the message or don't care.

Nevertheless, we have a responsibility to ensure our visitors are as safe as possible - particularly in frontcountry facilities like Alice Lake.

The atmosphere in Squamish is much different than that in other areas that have bear populations, like the mountain park communities of Banff and Jasper. In those towns, thanks perhaps to the conservation focus of Parks Canada, visitors and locals are constantly reminded that they are in Bear Country and have responsibilities to keep themselves safe - and to keep fewer bears from being shot simply for following their instincts.

With one lonely provincial Conser-vation Officer who has to cover an area from Lions Bay to D'Arcy. we're going to have to work a lot harder at it to create that same kind of awareness here in Sea to Sky Country - but work at it we must.

If we want to be Canada's Outdoor Recreation Capital, we have to take a leadership role and take responsibility for educating those who come to enjoy nature here.

The first opportunity to do that is coming up with the construction of the Sea to Sky Adventure Centre. As the gateway to both Squamish and the Sea to Sky corridor's recreation opportunities, this is an ideal place to make our visitors bear aware.

Let's make things safer in Canada's Outdoor Recreation Capital - for people and bears.

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