Wildlife populations will be a hot topic of conversation in Cranbrook this weekend.
After years of declining elk and deer numbers in the East Kootenay, the British Columbia Backcountry Hunters and Anglers has organized a gathering of organizations who have a vested interest in wildlife management in the region.
Bill Hanlon, the chair of the BCBHA has strategically chosen the timing of Saturday’s event — right before a provincial election — to kick off the conversation.
“We want to make wildlife management a priority in British Columbia,” said Hanlon. “It seems to be a reactionary process as opposed to a proactive process, so we want to educate the public to the actual declining wildlife populations and also to educate the candidates as well.”
Hosted by the Heritage Inn, doors will open at 1 p.m. for the two-hour event, which will be attended by provincial election candidates Tom Shypitka, for the B.C. Liberals and Randal Macnair, with the B.C. NDP. Representation will also include the Southern Guide Outfitters, Wildsight, Ktunaxa Nation Council, Elk Valley Rod and Gun Clubs, East Kootenay Wildlife Association.
The roundtable will kick off with a presentation on the current state of the wildlife resource in the region and the province. Each organization will have a few minutes to present their viewpoints on wildlife management, while the political candidates will have the chance to make public comments.
There will not be a public Q&A session or an open mic; however, Hanlon encourages any public members attending who wish to make their views known to fill out a comment card that will be forwarded to political candidates at the end of the day.
“I like to say we’re aligning our common interests because we all want healthy habitat, which produces healthy wildlife populations both for hunters and non-hunters and for all residents of British Columbians,” said Hanlon.
Hanlon points to a few factors for the decline in ungulate populations.
“There are cumulative effects,” he said. “It’s habitat loss and degradation, those are probably the major drivers of our dwindling wildlife populations. And that’s not just here in British Columbia and the East Kootenay — that’s a trend across the planet and we’re experiencing the same thing here.”
Hanlon organized the roundtable as a non-partisan event to educate the candidates, the public and to pinpoint the current issues in order to work towards solutions.
“It seems to be reactionary management as opposed to a proactive, science-based, objective management plan, for wildlife in general, both game and non-game species,” he said.