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Mountain News: Too many grizzlies dying in Rockies

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BANFF, Alberta - Grizzly bears have been dying in Banff and six other national parks in the Canadian Rockies more rapidly than scientists believe their populations can sustain.

Parks Canada, which administers the parks, reports that of the 63 grizzly bears that died in the mountain parks between 1990 and 2008, 48 deaths were human-caused and the majority were females. One relatively small area, Lake Louise, accounted for 25 per cent of human-caused deaths.

The report also found that the single largest killer of grizzly bears in the parks has been the Canadian Pacific Railway, which slices through Banff, and the Canada National Railway, which crosses Jasper.

Of special concern has been Banff, which has a population of 60 grizzlies. The known human-caused mortality of independent female bears has exceeded the 1.2 per cent target for the past seven years.

Jim Pissot, executive director of Defenders of Wildlife Canada, described the situation as shameful. "If this rate continues, deaths will exceed births in Banff National Park, and park management appears to be absolutely dumbfounded as to how to respond," he told Rocky Mountain Outlook .

Pissot called for a grizzly bear conservation strategy, and pointed to an approach used at Yellowstone National Park as appropriate. That approach involves gathering specialists, land managers, and adjacent land managers to take steps to reduce the likelihood of exceeding the threshold.

Re-tire-ment home not easily financed

GRANBY, Colo. - The Hagar home near Granby has a typical description: two bedrooms, three baths, and a two-car attached garage. That's where its commonality ends, because the house was constructed of 17,000 tires compressed into bales and then fashioned into 6-foot-thick walls.

Using tires for construction has great merit, in that it uses a plentiful material that has been literally stacking up over the decades: 128 million of them, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association. As well, the thick insulation creates a thermal mass that keeps the home at 60 to 70 degrees in summer, and sometimes warmer in winter. That minimizes the need for fossil fuels. Most of the heat can be delivered by passive solar.

Sounds wonderful, does it not? But there is, Laura Hagar tells the Sky-Hi Daily News , a problem. Financing construction of this home was not possible through conventional sources. The United States has only a handful of such houses. As such, the Hagars were rejected by 30 different mortgage brokers and lenders.

"There are no other houses like this, so if you can't find comparables, you can't get an appraisal. If you can't get an appraisal, you can't get a mortgage," Laura Hagar said.

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