Wolf photo by Brian Hay

Wolf photo by Brian Hay

2020 hunting season review and wildlife update: Part II

This is Part II of a three-part series by F.J. Hurtak, looking at the issues of the 2020 hunting and wildlife management seasons, which will appear in the Cranbrook Townsman over the next issues

This is Part II of a three-part series by F.J. Hurtak, looking at the issues of the 2020 hunting and wildlife management seasons, which will appear in the Cranbrook Townsman over the next issues

Where is the Governments’ “Together for Wildlife Strategy Plan” currently at?

In 2018, the Province began discussions with over 60 stakeholder groups, more than 1400 members of the general public, and indigenous communities. The culmination of that engagement resulted in a strategy to guide the province for the next 10 years. The consultations included rural communities, academic institutions, a wide range of resource industry, conservation, hunter, trapper, guides, recreation and tourism stakeholders as well as the public.

All good, but is the plan spinning its wheels at present? There has been little said in public about this plan since it was instituted. So, I decided to contact some of the stakeholders and politicians to get their thoughts, which I think you will find interesting. Here’s a cross section of some of the comments I received.

John Bergenske (Representative of Wildsight and former Executive Director from 2002-12): “The Plan is still in its early stages of course, but my hope is that eventually, decisions on wildlife and habitat will come out of each region in the province.

The selection of a Regional Advisory Board will be critical to achieving the goal. We have a very good mix and balance of stakeholders involved, so I’m optimistic that we can accomplish the objectives documented in the plan.”

Allan Duffy (Chair BC Chapter of backcountry Hunters and Anglers): “The BC BHA is cautiously optimistic about the Together for Wildlife Plan, and hope that it will bring meaningful and positive changes to wildlife and habitat in the province.

We have been involved in the consultation process since the beginning of the project and remain engaged with process. We ARE concerned with the slow progress and are advocating government continue to move forward in a timely manner.

BC BHA has focused on several big issues and themes we would like to see come out of strategy. A dedicated and greatly increased funding method for wildlife and habitat management; legislative changes that will prioritize wildlife and habitat across ministries: protection of wildlife stewardship objectives from political cycles, trends and social issues; and clear policies and objectives for wildlife management guided by the North American Model of Wildlife conservation.

The BC BHA would like to see the development of regional advisory committees as outlined in the strategy. We look forward to further progress on this very important initiative and seeing some positive change that will enhance our wildlife and our wild places.”

Tom Shypitka (Kootenay East MLA): “ The Together for Wildlife document which was issued by the government, highlighted many areas of conservation and eco-restoration initiatives which made perfect sense. However, there was no hard timeline on actions to accomplish these goals.

Giving wildlife and habitat a priority was one of the key items that was encouraging to hear from our government. In order to do this, a dedicated funding model was promised, which would return all wildlife revenues back to conservation and improvements to wildlife in general.

This funding model would be independent of government and would encourage all those that rely on wildlife and habitat to contribute their fair share for its preservation.

This model would put 100 per cent of revenues received, back into the Wildlife and Habitat Management plan. Unfortunately, nothing has been done thus far and it is essential in to move forward in a timely fashion.

Regional decision making with a science based approach is yet another measure that is essential, if we are ever to be serious about prioritizing wildlife and habitat.

Our province is as diverse with its wildlife and landscape as it is with its people and cultures. These diversities need to be identified on a regional basis, with the stewards of these regions.

I am referring to our local biologists, First Nations, Conservation Officers, trappers, guides, resident hunters, ranchers, industry etc. It is foolish NOT to tap into this resource to come up with custom solutions for the respective areas we live in.

My pledge is to bring this conversation forward to the new Minister of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development, as well as the Minister of the Environment and climate Change.

“Together for Wildlife” means exactly that. On December 17, I had the privilege of addressing the entire legislature, and asked that all parties make wildlife and habitat enhancement a priority in this province.”

Scott Ellis (Executive Director-Guide Outfitters of B.C.): “The GOABC is cautiously optimistic as well about the provincial government’s Together for Wildlife Strategy. It includes components that we really like, specifically around setting population and density objectives for wildlife. Our hope is that through this initiative, government will make real changes on the land that result in tangible benefits to wildlife.

Wildlife needs two main things to thrive: a healthy forest for food and protection; and a balanced predator-prey dynamic. Historically, there was much more effort made to reduce predator populations. Yet, as resource extraction has continued to advance throughout B.C., virtually every landscape change made has disproportionately benefitted predators while disadvantaging prey.

The explosion of linear features on the landscape, for example, and the amount and method of logging has benefitted wolves especially. So, we need to assign a value to wildlife so that land-use decisions protect wildlife and habitat. Strong healthy wildlife populations should be used as a key performance indicator of a healthy forest and healthy ecosystem. We have long said that without clear targets for wildlife managers to aim for, and be held accountable to, the results are passive management to zero.

Regional decision making needs to be led by ONE land manager per region. As it currently stands, each region has two statutory decision makers, fundamentally disconnected, with competing interests. Regional managers are tasked with animal-based decisions, while the district managers’ focus is on resource extraction. These two silos need to be linked with their priorities, and success metrics combined into a single rubric.

Furthermore, biologists within government need to be given the authority to pull all eight management levers as identified in Al Gorley’s 2016 report , Restoring and Enhancing Moose Populations. Under the existing model, the only tool biologists are now able to use is hunting regulations. This squanders the power available to make things right.

If what we hope for comes forth from the Together for Wildlife Strategy, we will see balanced growing, and sustainable wildlife populations on the land, for the benefit of all British Columbians, both today and into the future.”

See next week in the Townsman for Part III of F.J. Hurtak’s 2020 round-up