The BCWF is encouraged that the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services has recognized our recommendations on increasing watershed security, updates to infrastructure of waterways, and funding for wildlife, and would like the government to follow through on the committee’s recommendations immediately.
Water recommendations made were:
• Increase funding for watershed security to advance maintenance, conservation, and protection of BC’s watersheds.
• Update and modernize dams to meet safety standards and explore new ways to store water, such as small dams on tributaries.
• Provide $1 million per year over five years for the review of the Okanagan Lake Regulation System and Operating Plan.
Environmental Protection and Conservation Recommendations
49. Better integrate science-based approaches, including local and Indigenous knowledge and practices into conservation, protection and predator management efforts, including wildlife conservation and management and fire mitigation practices.
50. Establish a permanent and sustainable fish, wildlife, and habitat management fund to support conservation activities by government, community organizations, the private sector, and Indigenous peoples.
Invasive Species Recommendations
51. Significantly increase funding for invasive species prevention, monitoring, regulation, inspection, and mitigation as well as for preventing and responding to invasive species and noxious weeds incursions that arise as a direct result of wildfires and climate change.
Parks and Recreation Recommendations
52. Provide increased funding for parks, recreation and trails to address gaps in maintenance and staff, including dedicated funding to community-based organizations for trail maintenance and development.
For the full report, click here.
To read Chuck Zuckerman’s statement to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, continue reading below.
Presentation to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services by Chuck Zuckerman, President of the BC Wildlife Federation
I’d like to begin by saying that I do not envy you for the decisions and the deliberations that you have to make. I do budgets with my own organization, and they’re quite challenging at some times.
I want to talk about FLNRORD — the Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development Ministry. As a conservation organization, the B.C. Wildlife Federation is interested in putting more animals on the landscape, fish in the waters, protecting the environment, worried about climate change and habitat and access.
Since 2017, there has been an increase in FLNRORD funding, and the Fish and Wildlife Branch has had a very mild increase. But unfortunately, the budget forecast is to start withdrawing funds and, therefore, to be $41 million this year, $30 million next, $4 million the following year. So, it’s almost a 10 percent reduction over three years. We’re concerned about that funding.
The B.C. Wildlife Federation has 42,000 members, and the vital issues to us are natural resource management and wildlife sustainability. Unfortunately, wildlife management agencies have a history of being understaffed and underfunded. Our province’s motto is: “Splendour without diminishment.” That’s what we embody. That’s what all British Columbians have in their hearts when they go out into the wilderness areas.
To give you an idea …. we have one of the most biodiverse jurisdictions in North America, yet when it comes to funding, we spent, in 2017, only $37 million on fish and wildlife. Meanwhile, the state of Idaho, one-fifth the size of B.C. but one-third the population, spent three times as much — $106 million compared to $37 million.
This reduction in already inadequate funding results in the mountain caribou being an endangered species, as their herds have declined throughout the province. The Chilcotin and Thompson River steelhead face imminent extinction. Annual returns of that particular species are estimated to be less than 50 fish per river system. Before the slide in 1914, the salmonoid return was 120 million fish. So we’re down to less than a fraction of a percent over that.
In the last decade, mule deer and elk populations have experienced severe declines, and the moose population declined almost 70 percent throughout the province.
The recommendations that we have for managing fish and wildlife:
- Establish a wildlife governance and funding model, following the Premier’s mandate to improve wildlife management and habitat conservation and collaboration with stakeholders.
- The government needs to dedicate all license fees related to hunting, angling, trapping and ecotourism to take care of our fish, wildlife and habitat. The BCWF would like to see all extraction industries such as logging and mining have a portion of their royalties dedicated to fish, wildlife and habitat restoration.
- C. is lagging on its commitment to fish and wildlife due to hydro development.
The Columbia basin flows from B.C. into the United States, with B.C. holding approximately 30 percent of the Basin and the United States 70 percent. In 2017, the United States spent roughly $534M on fish, wildlife and habitat compensation, while B.C. spent only $5.4M. B.C. is also a net beneficiary of the Columbia River Treaty, putting $100-200 million into general revenue each year. Additionally, while the United States are spending their compensation dollars on projects that help fish, wildlife and habitat, B.C. is often spending its compensation dollars on monitoring and inventory which are core responsibilities of government. Overall, B.C. is not pulling its weight. We should be on par with the United States; we should be focused on restoring our wildlife resources and getting salmon back into the B.C. side of the Columbia Basin.
With nearly $600M being spent on compensation in the Columbia Basin in 2017, B.C.’s share is ~$180M per year.
Recommendation to support water security
- To establish a minimum of a $200 million permanent water security fund to develop appropriate watershed scale and collaborative partnerships, modernize watershed-based land use developments and develop innovations supporting province-wide advancement. The provincial government committed to this last year, including a Watershed Security plan.
Both Federal and Provincial governments need to work together to invest in the fund, and annual water rental fees will help keep the fund topped up.
Your children and their children depend on you to make the right decisions. We need collaborative coalitions for fish and wildlife and habitat. We need to start a conversation about conservation.
Ultimately, the solutions of today must not exacerbate the problems that we will face in the future. However, we can change the future and fix those problems by providing adequate, stable and continuous appropriate funding for the future.