BC’s New and Improved Wildlife Management Strategy – What are People Saying?

by Dec 3, 2019Conservation

 

“There are some obvious omissions that most of the stakeholder groups supported such as an independent oversight of funding and exploring other sources for funding. I also don’t see any clear path from this document to landscape level benefits for wildlife and habitat.”

– Gerry Paille, Chairman – BC Wildlife Federation Wildlife Committee

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After a lengthy consultation period with stakeholders and First Nation’s, the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has released a new and improved wildlife management and habitat conservation strategy for British Columbia titled, Together for Wildlife.

Hunters and other conservationists have been pointing out the shortfalls in British Columbia’s wildlife management approach for many years. Shortfalls including declining fish and wildlife populations, habitat loss, lack of land use plans, the lack of scientific research, lack of population recovery plans, the absence of legislated objectives for fish, wildlife and habitat, the politicized wildlife decision making history in the province and the ever declining funding for wildlife management.

Advocacy from hunters was instrumental in getting the government to undertake a new province-wide process to identify better ways of managing and funding fish and wildlife management. Now the province has opened a public comment period for the new and improved wildlife management and habitat conservation strategy.

To help guide you in understanding this new plan and to help you formulate comments for submission, The Hunter Conservationist reached out to three people in BC who are connected to the wildlife management scene in this province and asked them for their thoughts to 4 key questions pertaining to the government’s new strategy.

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Bill Hanlon, Chair
British Columbia Chapter Board
Backcountry Hunter and Anglers

 

1) What is your initial impression of the new plan?

We were happy to see that the ‘Together for Wildlife’ document addresses some of the issues and priorities BCBHA brought forward. However, there are still many questions unanswered and some shortcomings.

2) What things do you see that look as though they will be positive for wildlife management?

The overall goals of the plan are positive. If they are successful in creating and implementing clear policies and objectives, developing a funding strategy, creating an effective system to make science based decisions that consider other values, and creating a system to measure and monitor the effectiveness of the strategy – it will be positive for wildlife.

3) What challenges or concerns do you have?

The plan is very vague and does not have a lot of detail. We are also concerned about the timeline – a lot of the objectives have a longer-term time horizon and we feel there are issues that need to be dealt with sooner.

It is not very clear how they are going to come up with the necessary funding and a ‘dedicated’ funding model. Legislative changes do not seem to be on the table – especially outside of the Wildlife Act (ie. FRPA, Mines Act, etc).

It is not clear how they are going to combine science-based data with other forms of data (citizen science).

4) What commitments or nuances do you feel will be important for the public top stay on top off?

Funding – this is going to be the biggest challenge and it is not clear in the document how they are going to address it.

Objectives – we need to watch out that objectives are clear and measurable, and that government has a system to monitor progress. It is also important that hunting groups and individuals watch that the objectives make sense and will allow for hunting.

Legislation – some of the changes we need to improve wildlife are going to involve legislative changes to other acts. We need to continue to push for wildlife to be made a priority across all ministries that have an impact to the wildlife and habitat resource in BC.

Advisory committees – watch that the makeup of the advisory committees is balanced and that members have wildlife and habitat as a priority.

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Jesse Zeman, Director
Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program
BC Wildlife Federation

 

1) What is your initial impression of the new plan?

It will not change the trajectory of wildlife populations or habitat.

2) What things do you see that look as though they will be positive for wildlife management?

Some commitments around relevant legislation and objectives which are set after the next provincial election, however, it is unlikely this is a sincere commitment.

3) What challenges or concerns do you have?

This will not change the trajectory of wildlife and it is completely inconsistent with what this government said it would do.

4) What commitments or nuances do you feel will be important for the public top stay on top off?

Funding and management actions which support wildlife. The funding commitment in this document is far less than what it committed to before, and it is not dedicated.

To conserve and restore wildlife populations we need management actions which include changes to industry practices, reducing linear features, ecosystem restoration, burns, weed management, predator/prey management and habitat acquisition. There is no commitment in this paper to do any of that at a scale which is meaningful for wildlife.

The government is currently cutting budgets for key natural resource ministries including the fish and wildlife branch, conservation officers service, cumulative effects, ecosystems etc. Taking money away then giving it back is underhanded.

Given the increase in the provincial budget over the past 2 years, this government may be spending proportionally less on taking care of fish, wildlife and habitat than any other government in British Columbia’s history.

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Dr. Adam Ford
Canada Research Chair in Wildlife Restoration Ecology
Assistant Professor
University of British Columbia-Okanagan

 

1) What is your initial impression of the new plan?

I am cautiously optimistic. We are seeing the government make advances towards its campaign platform to restructure the funding model for wildlife in BC.

2) What things do you see that look as though they will be positive for wildlife management?

There is a lot of positives to focus on – including explicit recognition of the expanded role that Indigenous communities should play in wildlife management, recognition of the need to establish management objectives in a collaborative manner, and for me, as a researcher, better links between science and decision making. The last point has me most excited – as I think there is a lot of room for researchers to make their work more relevant to managers and for managers to engage the science community to help develop solutions.

3) What challenges or concerns do you have?

My concern is that wildlife conservation becomes politicized or is an election issue. While I appreciate the need for government to take deliberate steps, and to hear ideas from many people, there is a history in many governments of ‘kicking the can down the road’. I really hope that the efforts here are not wasted – a lot of people have spent a lot of time and good will – from the public, government, and non-government a like – to engage in this process. I hope it leads to meaningful change this time or there is a risk of creating a great deal of cynicism and disenfranchisement. Also, the recent (but foreseeable) struggles of the forest industry shouldn’t be taken as a free pass to liquidate conservation efforts – I fear that industry’s voice is always louder in good times and in bad – we need to make sure that the special relationships that people have with wildlife – food security, culture, and economic values – aren’t jeopardized right now.

4) What commitments or nuances do you feel will be important for the public top stay on top off?

These ideas are far from settled – so now is the time for people to stay engaged and not fall asleep at the wheel of complacency. Keep meeting with your MLAs, let your ministers know this is important to you.

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There you have it – three perspectives on the new and improved wildlife management and habitat conservation strategy for British Columbia. There are some differences between the three perspectives but there are many common threads.

Now it’s your turn.

You can download The Together for Wildlife strategy here and your comments can be submitted here.

Every British Columbian has between November 22, 2019 and January 9, 2020 to provide input on the future direction of wildlife management in the province.

 

 

Cover Image: © szczepank / Adobe Stock

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