As reported last week in the Bulletin, the provincial government has put out a new draft Together For Wildlife Policy.
Wildlife management is an issue close to the heart for Columbia River – Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok. He has had some time to read through the report, and while he says it’s not a total waste of time, the strategy does not inspire a lot of confidence because at its root, it is purely politics and doesn’t offer the kind of commitment based on the known problems.
“Wildlife issues in BC are not the fault of any one political party,” Clovechok said. “This crisis has roots back into the 1950’s, and BC frankly has not treated wildlife with the respect or funding it deserves.
“What is a huge problem however is that the BCNDP have been in power for almost three years and nothing has been done to stop the ever decreasing wildlife numbers. The current BCNDP document, Together for Wildlife Strategy, is not a total waste of time. Adding $10 million to the budget for wildlife is good, but frankly it is woefully inadequate. The BC Liberals promised in 2017 to inject $15 million, and that was just to start, for an independent wildlife management society similar to the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC. Much more money will be needed.
“This registered “management society” would be able to go outside of government for money tapping into the vast philanthropic network of donors similar to what goes on in the USA.
“The document acknowledges there have been population decreases, although strangely the document does not name those species that are diminishing. The obvious question is why? Why would they not acknowledge the specific species such as elk, sheep, mule deer and moose? Could it be because what they are really saying is that they want to focus on mountain caribou, wolverine and other species that are not hunted and don’t want to be seen to be supporting hunting? Makes one wonder.
Clovechok says the document focuses on habitat, human impact and climate change only, leading the impression that the government believes all the answers will be found there.
“They refer specifically to decommissioning forest roads. They refer to setting aside more crown land in “protected” areas such as parks. The document indicates clearly that the NDP think this is all about the bad humans who are the cause of wildlife population decreases. I believe that this will turn out to include hunters as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.”
Habitat is a factor, Clovechok says but notes that the current protected areas and parks in B.C. are not producing large umbers of animals.
“Why? Because habitat is not the only answer and in many cases is not the answer at all. But yet, they continue to say it is all about habitat. The document does not refer to the predator/prey balance as a determining factor. Why? Everyone who lives in the Rocky Mountain Trench knows that balance is now tilted in favour of bears, wolves, cougars and coyotes. Why not mention it? It is not mentioned because it is politically incorrect to talk about reducing predators.
“It is much easier and popular in the cities to talk about creating more parks, cutting back on mining, forestry and energy impacts or reduce hunting, than it is to acknowledge that much of the good habitat is void or near empty of animals right now. Why? Because of the preponderance of predators.”
Education is needed, he says. There is a clear gap in thinking between rural and urban on wildlife issues. Those in the city don’t understand hunters, he says.
Clovechok says it is clear to him that the strategy has no intention of dealing with predator issues.
“The document (Action 9) refers to habitat issues, closing roads, locking up more land, reducing mortality on roads and railways, cutting back on industry, invasive species and disease. These are all real factors worth consideration. But again, in this long list, there is no mention of actually managing the predator and prey dynamic as a system. Why?
“The NDP love to strike committees and to “consult”, rather than make decisions and execute on those decisions. It takes political courage to take a principled stand and actually take action that some will not like. Our wildlife is at stake and this gutlessness is leading to populations that are so low, hunters may well be faced with Limited Entry Hunt for elk and deer, something hunters here know is not the right solution.”
The government should also be sourcing knowledge from organizations the BCWF, the BC Trappers, the BC Guideoutfitters and First Nations, he says.
“First Nations have been managing wildlife since time immemorial,” he said.
“NDP history will repeat itself as it creates committees that either exclude these groups or will have them outnumbered by those they have hand picked in any NDP consultation process.
“They talk generally about establishing clear goals but they do not mention establishing population targets for areas like the Rocky Mountain Trench. How many elk, deer, moose and sheep can the area sustain (carrying capacity)? Do they know? Do they want to know? Do they care? Goal 4 is about measuring “progress”. How can you measure how you’re doing with the elk, deer, moose or sheep population if you don’t have population targets to measure against?
“They talk about “leveraging other funding opportunities” like the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund (HCTF). The HCTF was created here in the East Kootenay in the 1980’s. Hunters here suggested to the then Social Credit government that the government should add a surcharge to hunting licenses and tag costs and apply that money to the species hunters care most about: elk, deer, moose & sheep. I would be VERY worried that this government is going to steal more of our money for other species than they already do. The HCTF already is spending our money on salamanders and bobolinks. This is our money! Hunters, trappers & guide outfitters put ALL the money into HCTF and the NDP should keep their hands off that money except for the benefit of the critters the money is supposed to go towards.
“Over $180 million has been raised and spent on 2400 projects since then without producing the game populations that were anticipated. Wonder if an audit of these projects and funds usage would be something that would be useful.
“Lack of funding has always been a problem and the BCNDP 2020 budget signals clearly that this government is not serious about tackling the wildlife problem head on. Nowhere in the budget or the Throne is speech wildlife mentioned; nothing about a “Together” for Wildlife Strategy. In actuality they have cut funding to the allocation to resource stewardship, species at risk recovery, land use planning and the Conservation Officer Service to mention a few.
“I am sorry but this document is a typical NDP cop-out. Try to act like you are taking the bull by the horns but protect yourself politically by creating processes and committees and talk about consultation – all of which is really just treading water. The so-called strategy does not inspire any confidence that anything good is going to come of this. It is, pure & simple, politics, not the kind of commitment based on what we already know to be a problem.
“The time for talk has long past and the problems have been identified; yet the BCNDP want to talk some more while wildlife populations continue to plummet,” Clovechok said. “Put your money where your mouth is and lets do something!”