The Bear Smart Task Force advised Rossland Council about the shortcomings of the curbside organics program at its meeting on Aug. 8.
In her presentation, Task Force chair Indea D’Aigle recommended that council consider installing communal compost bins in place of or in addition to the green critter resistant bins offered in the Regional District Kootenay Boundary’s (RDKB) Curbside Organics Project.
D’Aigle asked the city, which is seeking Bear Smart Community status, to undertake a pilot program for large communal organic waste bins that have totes inside and a loan program for countertop composters.
“We were thinking that the pilot program could be in effect during the bear season (April to October), so do the regular curbside collection from November to March, those dormant months for bears.”
She also suggested that pickup routes be adapted and bear resistant bins made available for high risk areas, that bylaw review and enforcement be enhanced, and residents educated on proper storage for its organics and garbage.
“Similar communities to us, Jasper, Canmore and Banff – Jasper has 2 million visitors annually and they go to 100 per cent communal bear bin program,” said D’Aigle. “In Jasper only two bears were destroyed in 2019 and this was due to habitual feeding of feeding stations and fruit trees.”
In contrast, 12 bears were destroyed in Rossland in 2021, about 10 per cent of the total population destroyed in the West Kootenay.
“It’s quite an astonishing number considering we have coexisted with them for so long, and its far too many bears for this day and age,” said D’Aigle.
She also noted that calls to the Conservation Officer Service in Grand Forks increased substantially after they adopted the curbside composting. The project saw an increase in wildlife conflicts, largely due to improper storage.
Council, however, had to make a decision on the the RDKB’s Curbside Organics Project following a presentation by RDKB General Manager of the Environment Janine Dougall, who was asked to provide information at the previous council meeting.
Through the program, Rossland will receive 1,790 critter resistant bins, and 268 bear resistant bins when the program rolls out in September 2023.
Coun. Janice Nightingale made a motion to accept the number and types of bins recommended by the RDKB, pointing out that they are all covered by grant funding.
“I don’t buy opening a smorgasboard out there for bears,” said Nightingale. “It’s very beneficial for us to have an organics disposal for short term and long term costs.
“I agree with Indy’s previous discussion about Rossland having some concerns with wildlife but I think that for us, the city, to move forward in the future versus disrupt this process right now.”
Coun. Terry Miller was the lone contrarian, saying he would rather proceed with caution.
“We need an organics program, we need to reduce waste, but from a bear perspective, it’s going to cause more problems down the road, and I would rather go slower and do it right.”
Council passed the motion to go with the RDKB curbside organics program in a 6-1 vote.