Wildlife/train issue a challenge
Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 06:00 am
Re: Dec. 14 letter to the editor on the relationship with wildlife/trains.
The relationship between vehicles and trains and wildlife is challenging. For grizzly bears and CP, the complex relationship is a topic of national interest, especially in Banff and Yoho National Parks.
To that end, earlier this year, CP and Parks Canada announced the results of a five-year, $1 million study: the Grizzly Bear Joint Initiative research program.
It has been reiterated repeatedly by Parks Canada, CP and the independent academic research team that grizzly bear protection is a complex issue with no silver bullet solution. CP is committed to implementing science-based solutions which will reduce the risk of wildlife and, in particular, grizzly bear mortality.
While the issue of grain was noted in the research on grizzly bears, it was by no means the only, or even most pressing, issue. One of the most significant challenges identified in the research was the denser forests that have resulted in lower quality bear habitat, fewer food sources and less mobility away from the railway right of way.
These are all significant reasons to explain why bears come to the railway right of way for natural food sources or ease of movement around their range. This research helped CP to understand the many different issues involved and it helped inform next steps, which CP will continue to work on in partnership with Parks Canada. This ongoing partnership must consider the complex challenges identified by the research both on and off of the railway right of way.
As a specific example, it was shown through the research that vegetation could play a significant role in drawing bears to the right-of-way for food sources such as berries, and also in preventing bears from getting out of the way of trains. As a result, CP just completed the first year of our three-year commitment to vegetation management and corridor widening.
Next year, again working closely with Parks Canada, we will continue to focus on mitigation efforts within our existing right-of-way as part of the $250,000 per year vegetation management program throughout Banff and Yoho National Parks.
While issues surrounding grizzly bear mortality are complex, CP acknowledges that grain piles on the tracks are undesirable. CP also recognizes this issue is a shared responsibility – between us, our customers, the ports and the federal government (which regulates grain movement in Canada) – and is taking a leadership role.
CP is diligent in identifying grain cars that are leaking while in CP’s custody and takes appropriate action. Our train crews are instructed not to accept a grain car they observe to be leaking at the point of origin and CP will set out any car that is observed to be leaking while in CP’s custody.
While these processes have proven quite effective at stopping cars with obvious leaks from moving through Banff National Park, grain sometimes leaks in a small trickle while the car is vibrating as it moves in a train. 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 not quite fully closed hopper gate.
CP uses various means to avoid grain accumulating on its right of way, including operating procedures to avoid stopping grain trains for long periods of time in the park where possible and vacuum trucks and other methods of removing grain that has been spilled along CP’s right of way.
If your readers have further questions regarding our programs and the measures CP is taking to further reduce the risk of grizzly bear (or other wildlife) mortality we invite them to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Van Humbeck
System Manager Environmental Assessment