The Manitoba government is considering new permits for tundra vehicles.

© Kt Miller/Polar Bears International

4/3/2014 4:13:11 PM

Manitoba Considers New Rules for Polar Bear Tourism

On the heels of a possible polar bear provincial park designation near Churchill, Manitoba, the province is considering whether to lift restrictions on eco-tourism.

CBC News wrote, "The province is hiring a consultant to review the number of off-road tundra vehicles used to carry tourists around polar bear country near Churchill and to recommend how many should be allowed to operate in the new park.

"There are 18 permits right now for tundra vehicles — a number that has been in place since the early 1990s. The specially designed buggies travel along designated trails and give people a chance to see polar bears up close."

Some feel tundra vehicles don't really bother bears. The University of Alberta's Andrew Derocher, one of the country's leading polar bear experts, said the vehicles don't hurt the bears as much as disappearing sea ice does.

Others fear more permits will attract operators who don't have polar bears', or the Arctic tundra's, best interest in mind.

John Gunter, president and CEO of Frontiers North Adventures, said he's worried the province, based on a superficial study, could upset the delicate balance that exists between experienced tour operators and the region's polar bears. Manitoba is known around the world for its polar bears, he said, and all it would take to damage that reputation would be one novice operator. Gunter said his company has spent years perfecting safety operations and environmental practices so it doesn't disturb polar bears or their habitat.

"It has taken us 30 years to earn this reputation," said Gunter, who runs the largest tundra-buggy operation, with 12 of the 18 permits. "Credibility takes that long to earn, but it disappears in minutes." 

Read more: Manitoba Eyes New Rules for Polar Bear Tourism Near Hudson Bay


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