OP/ED: Cautious Optimism for Provincial Wildlife Strategy
British Columbia’s hunters and anglers have long been the vanguard of wildlife conservation efforts in our province. Over the years, many of us have raised concerns about declining wildlife populations, large-scale habitat fragmentation and deterioration of true backcountry wilderness. Members of the British Columbia chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers are therefore pleased to see our provincial government bring forward a plan to improve wildlife management and habitat conservation through the “Together for Wildlife” proposal. The proposed strategy aspires to develop clear and measurable objectives for wildlife stewardship and then use policy and “on-the-ground” actions to achieve them. We are particularly pleased to see a commitment to making transparent, evidence-based decisions about wildlife stewardship actions through consultation with provincial and regional committees comprised of key stakeholder groups.
Although the framework for Together for Wildlife is laudable, its current form is simply a high-level set of aspirational statements. Turning aspirations into reality will require careful and dedicated implementation. This will not be straightforward. Criteria for involvement on the Provincial Minister’s Wildlife Advisory Council and Regional Wildlife Committees must be carefully developed. Too often, decisions that impact the health and management of ecosystems are made by special interest groups, emotional responses to hot-button issues, or short-term economic goals. When decisions are made this way, it is to the detriment of wildlife populations and habitat. Participating members on the Provincial Minister’s Wildlife Advisory Council and Regional Wildlife Committees must be committed to wildlife stewardship and not prejudiced by trend social issues or special interests. In particular, members of these groups, who will guide wildlife and habitat policy, research priorities, and funding, should be familiar with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and recognize that that the most effective wildlife stewardship policies and objectives are grounded in the best available science.
Additionally, the strategy presented does not adequately describe the funding models that will be employed to achieve provincial wildlife stewardship goals. Without appropriate funding that is both robust and secure, the Together for Wildlife strategy will fail. Funds from user groups (including hunting license and tag sales, but also from consumptive and non-consumptive users of our public lands, waters, and wildlife) should be dedicated to wildlife stewardship. Moreover, the Provincial Minister’s Wildlife Advisory Council should be mandated to explore additional sources of funds and funding models that can be leveraged to maximize resources available for wildlife stewardship.
The Together for Wildlife Strategy commits to stewarding our provincial wildlife populations through the protection, conservation, restoration and recovery of wildlife and habitat and the enforced regulation of human activities. This admirable goal will only be achieved if legislation puts habitat conservation and wildlife management on the same footing as economic growth, development, and social issues. We are concerned that the legislative commitments in the Together for Wildlife Strategy will be insufficient to elevate wildlife stewardship as a provincial priority and would like to see the province reconsider the development of specific legislation for habitat conservation and wildlife management.
The BC Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers urges all British Columbian’s who care about wildlife management, habitat conservation and wilderness preservation to comment on the Together for Wildlife Strategy. The provincial government is conducting a questionnaire until Jan. 9, 2020. Learn more at: https://www.backcountryhunters.org/togetherforwildlife.
Alan Duffy, Bill Hanlon and Mark Robichaud sit on the board of the British Columbia chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and work hard to protect our province’s wilderness and wildlife for future generations.