Though the provincial election remains months away, the campaign is unofficially underway. The recent announcement by NDP leader John Horgan that, if elected, the NDP government would ban the grizzly bear trophy hunt has sparked plenty of comment from both sides of the political spectrum.
The position of Horgan and the NDP is that grizzlies are worth more to the province alive, as wildlife viewing is gaining considerable traction in the tourism sector.
BC Liberal critics say that this position on hunting shows the NDP’s urban bias and does not take into consideration the more rural ridings where hunting is both recreation and business.
Here in Columbia River Revelstoke, NDP candidate Gerry Taft says a trophy hunt for grizzlies is an entirely different thing than hunting for meat.
“It is clear that the vast majority of British Columbians do not support trophy hunting for grizzly bears,” Taft said. “This ban has absolutely no effect on any person who hunts for food. Hunters in this area are committed to using our wildlife resources wisely. That means making proper use of meat to feed family and friends.”
BC Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok says the issue is a divisive one.
“Let me start by saying that this is a very difficult issue and there is absolutely no question about that,” he said. “There are passionate beliefs on both sides of the issue and in many ways these differences highlight a BC urban/rural divide. That is why our government has a comprehensive and balanced plan to protect grizzly populations; a plan that is grounded in science.
“Our government manages all wildlife populations based on the principal of conservation first and hunting is only allowed where populations allow. Today it is estimated that BC has a population of 15,000 Grizzly bears which is considered to be a stable and self-sustaining population.”
But Taft says that management has not been successful.
“Ultimately, we have to look at all threats to species such as grizzly bears. That means a real commitment to addressing deteriorating habitat conditions and improving our knowledge. For the last 15 years, the government has drastically cut the number of scientist and wildlife professionals working on the ground. As a result, the government simply does not have access to the science we need to ensure that we are managing wildlife resources properly. And the government has not taken the level of action required to ensure grizzlies and other wildlife have the habitat they need to survive.
‘This is why New Democrat MLA Katrine Conroy introduced legislation that would set up stable funding and planning for habitat conservation and wildlife in the province. I am committed to the work of the BC NDP to support hunting for food and to protect wildlife ecosystems across the province.”
Clovechok says populations are healthy in this area.
“Here in our region, Grizzly Bear numbers along with other Apex predators are healthy and strong and their strength, in terms of numbers, are frankly decimating ungulate populations. This fact continues to be brought to my attention by outfitter/guides and fellow hunters who are also reporting historical declines in ungulate numbers. These declines are in turn having significant negative economic impacts on our region.”
“In addition Grizzly Bears along with the other Apex predators are killing livestock literally resulting in thousands of dollars in lost revenue to our ranching community. My neighbor this past summer lost 25 calves to predators which included Grizzly Bears.
“Wild life management here in the Kootenays is critical in terms of both ungulate and predator populations. Without a balanced and planned approached to harvesting both ungulate and predator simultaneously, there will never be balance. Our position on wildlife management recognizes the differences British Columbians have on the issue and we have never hid the fact that there is a controlled hunt.
“In contrast, NDP leader John Horgan’s recent announcement on banning the grizzly hunt is yet another example of the NDP unsuccessfully trying to be all things to all people. On one hand they say they will ban the hunt yet in the next breath tell us they will allow the hunt under some circumstances that even include trophy hunting. They are literally pandering to the lower mainland voter who in most cases has no idea of the many moving parts associated with this issue. Horgan’s promise is hollow demonstrating yet again that the NDP have no identifiable or sustainable plan to deal with any complex issue.
Hunting is an integral part of the Kootenay culture we all share. As the BC Liberal candidate and potentially your future MLA I continue to defend our values and culture with vigor and without hesitation.”