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Letter to the Editor: Wildlife/train Issue a Challenge


Re: Dec. 14 letter to theeditor on the relationship with wildlife/trains.

The relationship betweenvehicles and trains and wildlife is challenging. For grizzly bears and CP, thecomplex relationship is a topic of national interest, especially in Banff andYoho National Parks.

To that end, earlier this year, CP and Parks Canada announcedthe results of a five-year, $1 million study: the Grizzly Bear Joint Initiativeresearch program.

It has been reiterated repeatedly by Parks Canada, CP and theindependent academic research team that grizzly bear protection is a complexissue with no silver bullet solution. CP is committed to implementingscience-based solutions which will reduce the risk of wildlife and, inparticular, grizzly bear mortality.

While the issue of grain was noted in the research on grizzlybears, it was by no means the only, or even most pressing, issue. One of themost significant challenges identified in the research was the denser foreststhat have resulted in lower quality bear habitat, fewer food sources and lessmobility away from the railway right of way.

These are all significant reasons to explain why bears come tothe railway right of way for natural food sources or ease of movement aroundtheir range. This research helped CP to understand the many different issuesinvolved and it helped inform next steps, which CP will continue to work on inpartnership with Parks Canada. This ongoing partnership must consider thecomplex challenges identified by the research both on and off of the railwayright of way.

As a specific example, it was shown through the research thatvegetation could play a significant role in drawing bears to the right-of-wayfor food sources such as berries, and also in preventing bears from getting outof the way of trains. As a result, CP just completed the first year of ourthree-year commitment to vegetation management and corridor widening.

Next year, again working closely with Parks Canada, we willcontinue to focus on mitigation efforts within our existing right-of-way aspart of the $250,000 per year vegetation management program throughout Banffand Yoho National Parks.

While issues surrounding grizzly bear mortality are complex, CPacknowledges that grain piles on the tracks are undesirable. CP also recognizesthis issue is a shared responsibility – between us, our customers, the portsand the federal government (which regulates grain movement in Canada) – and istaking a leadership role.

CP is diligent in identifying grain cars that are leaking whilein CP’s custody and takes appropriate action. Our train crews are instructednot to accept a grain car they observe to be leaking at the point of origin andCP will set out any car that is observed to be leaking while in CP’s custody.

While these processes have proven quite effective at stoppingcars with obvious leaks from moving through Banff National Park, grainsometimes leaks in a small trickle while the car is vibrating as it moves in atrain. These kinds of leaks are extremely difficult for CP to detect and,again, are usually the result of a maintenance condition on the car or a notquite fully closed hopper gate.

CP uses various means to avoid grain accumulating on its rightof way, including operating procedures to avoid stopping grain trains for longperiods of time in the park where possible and vacuum trucks and other methodsof removing grain that has been spilled along CP’s right of way.

If your readers have further questions regarding our programsand the measures CP is taking to further reduce the risk of grizzly bear (orother wildlife) mortality we invite them to contact us at

Joe Van Humbeck

System Manager Environmental Assessment

Canadian Pacific

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