MLA Shypitka hosts wildlife management forum

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka recently hosted a wildlife management stakeholder forum, which was held at the Heritage Inn in Cranbrook. The purpose of the meeting was to to bring together a wide range of stakeholders and to refresh what had been discussed at last year’s public and stakeholder round table in March and in many smaller circles as well.

“The delay on these talks centered around last year’s election in B.C. and determining who was in government and what direction, and budget of the new government was going to be,” said Shypitka. “The NDP/Green Party budget has now been released and its time to address the issue of wildlife management in this province head on.

“I have personally had discussions already with the Minister of Forests to let him know the urgency of our wildlife ecosystem situation not only in the East Kootenay, but in the entire province. In reviewing the budget, it is apparent to me the government did not recognize this. Proper wildlife management was one of my campaign priorities, so after consultation with stakeholders, my opportunity now, is to take our concerns to government to commit the much needed funding to advance our cause.”

One of the groups that attended the forum was the Kootenay Wildlife Coalition which was formed some time after last March’s wildlife round table. The group consists of representatives from Wildsight, East Kootenay Big Game Club, B.C.Trappers Association, East Kootenay Wildlife Association, Southern Guide Outfitters, United Bowhunters of BC, and Back Country Hunters and Anglers.

“Our broad range of organizations all have a vested interest in wildlife and its associated habitat,” said Bill Hanlon, who served as a spokesman for the group. “At the meeting we provided Tom with what we as a coalition are asking of government. The points we pressed are, that wildlife and habitat need to be a government priority and appropriately funded. We also need to continue to message on the need for clear objectives and management plans that are both sustainable and enforceable.

“This requires having the appropriate data that supports science-based wildlife objectives, and management plans. Implementation of course, will require changes to policy and legislation, as wildlife and habitat are presently largely managed under legislation shaped to accommodate other priorities.”

Other attendees at the forum, which was facilitated by Gabrielle Zezulka from College of the Rockies, included a representative from Canfor, two biologists (one retired), and some local hunters.

Shypitka indicated that although the people attending the meeting did not represent everyone, due to limited time and space, he will be further speaking to all of the involved stakeholders, including ATV Clubs, community access and recreation groups, the ranching community, Ktunaxa and Shuswaps, Rod and Gun Clubs, and other associated groups and individuals who have concerns on this issue.

“I can’t tell you enough how proud I am with all the groups digging down, and being willing to give up a bit here and there, in order to get way more back in return down the road,” Shypitka said. “We all need to look at the big picture, because if we don’t, our small squabbles for our own agendas and interests will accomplish absolutely nothing in the foreseeable future.”

Shypitka says he is currently in the process of preparing a presentation alongside Prince George MLA Mike Morris on the wildlife issue and encourages anyone with any questions or concerns to contact him through email at tom.shypitka.mla@leg.bc.ca

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