The new year is a time of reflection and sometimes change. Gerry Paille BCWF Wildlife and Allocations Committee Chair has taken the opportunity to give a bird’s eye view of the B.C. Wildlife Federation’s position in wildlife, fish and habitat decision-making frameworks in British Columbia, moving from 2021 to 2022.
Wildlife and Habitat Management in British Columbia
Until recently, wildlife and habitat management in British Columbia has largely been the responsibility of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development with some responsibilities lying with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
However, in late February 2022, Premier Horgan announced the Honourable Katrine Conroy, as Minister of Forests, and the Honourable Josie Osborne as Minister of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship (LWRS). Wildlife and habitat management is distributed between both ministries, and fisheries and aquaculture goes with LWRS — strategic planning, including Together for Wildlife and the Minister’s Wildlife Advisory Council, occurs within LWRS and implementation and permitting lie with the Ministry of Forest’s staff. As expected, reconciliation is in the forefront for both ministries. The B.C. Wildlife Federation is committed to working with the B.C. government and Indigenous governments on fish, wildlife and habitat stewardship initiatives.
The B.C. Wildlife Federation’s (BCWF) role includes participation in regional advisory groups and roundtables throughout the province, having representation on the Provincial Hunting and Trapping Advisory Team (PHTAT), having representation on the board of the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) and in meetings with government representatives including Ministers and other elected officials down to regional wildlife managers and biologists. Indigenous peoples can, and do, participate in some regional advisory groups and roundtables and the BCWF meets directly with some First Nations.
Regional advisory groups focus on wildlife and habitat management specific to a region while PHTAT is provincial in scope and also focuses on topics such as hunting methods and the impacts of access. The BCWF has two members on the HCTF board, which among other responsibilities, reviews applications for project funding. HCTF funding is mainly sourced through fishing, hunting and trapping licence surcharges. The BCWF representatives place priority on the best projects that have strong objectives and monitoring components, and centre on on-the-ground actions.
While these avenues of collaboration are ongoing, there is a suite of other collaborative initiatives across the province in which the BCWF does not directly participate. Some of these have been ongoing for several years now, and are part of the Province’s reconciliation process and commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The initiatives include:
- Minister’s Wildlife Advisory Council — a part of the Together for Wildlife Strategy
- First Nations – BC Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Forum
- Collaborative Stewardship Frameworks
- Environmental Stewardship Initiative
The BCWF is hopeful about these initiatives as they all have the potential to bring about positive change for fish and wildlife in British Columbia.
The BCWF advocates for increased and dedicated funding for fish, wildlife and habitat that is concentrated on meaningful actions that really make a difference including habitat restoration and enhancement, prescribed fire, and post wildfire management and forestry practices that are more responsive to the needs of fish and wildlife. Moving in this direction requires a much bigger budget, achievable and measurable objectives and new or revised legislation that do not discount the value of fish and wildlife. To that end, the BCWF has long been advocating for a Natural Resource Ministry that focuses on fish and wildlife and does not have forestry as a priority.
The B.C. Wildlife Federation also supports wildlife and hunting by frequently meeting with wildlife managers, by meeting with elected officials, by meeting with First Nations organizations, by engaging academics and researchers, by supporting regions and by collecting data and drafting and editing briefs to government. These stories are told by reaching out to members and the public through traditional and social media, hosting webinars and responding to government led engagement processes including expressing support for the continuation of predator removal in conjunction with other caribou recovery initiatives. The BCWF staff, through its multiple communications channels, did a great job in encouraging members to provide feedback through the hunting regulations engagement process.
BCWF clubs across the province continue to provide financial and untold number of volunteer hours in support of projects like the Southern Interior Mule Deer and Cougar Projects, chronic wasting disease surveillance, and planning and funding prescribed fire plans.
Yours in conservation,
Gerry Paille, Chair BCWF Wildlife and Allocation Committee