Investing to create a legacy of fish and wildlife diversity and abundance.
On behalf of our 43,000 plus members, The BC Wildlife Federation welcomes the opportunity to address the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services on the vital issues that relate to natural resource management sustainability in British Columbia.
Throughout its history and under various names, British Columbia’s fish and wildlife management agency has been among the most understaffed and underfunded of any of the fish and wildlife agencies in North America.
While the provincial budget increased nearly five times, the budget for natural resource management barely moved. When we bring this up with our elected officials, we are told that all the money goes to the big three; health, education and social services, yet when we remove the big three from the budget, we find out everything else tripled. From 1998-2011 the renewable resource ministry budgets declined by nearly 56 per cent and from 2002-2010 the number of full-time equivalent employees declined by 27 per cent. It isn’t that health care, education and social services are taking up the entire budget; it is that everything other than natural resource management takes up the entire budget.
We are seeing a lack of investment in many of our fish and wildlife populations. Mountain caribou are in decline across most of the province; some populations are so low they will likely disappear in the next two decades. Chilcotin and Thompson river steelhead, once iconic runs in British Columbia, have gone from 3,000 to 4,000 fish returning annually with a catch and kill fishery, to being under threat to imminent extinction. Moose populations in the central interior have experienced 50-70 per cent declines in the last decade. Mule deer and elk populations are also declining in parts of the province. British Columbia is failing to adequately protect its natural resources, which is being exacerbated by the mountain pine beetle epidemic, forest fires and climate change effects on forest ecosystem structure and productivity.
While most jurisdictions in North America have dedicated funding models for Wildlife, B.C. does not. Currently 100 per cent of freshwater fishing licence fees are dedicated between the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC; only $2.6 of $14.5 million of hunting licence fees are dedicated to Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.
The following BCWF recommendations to the Standing Committee of Finance come at a critical time. Economic diversification is highly desirable especially during this current period of environmental uncertainty in rural B.C. Socially, we need to continue to have our youth connected to nature. Furthermore, now more than ever we must address the increasing human footprint on our province and work collaboratively to ensure conservation of our landscapes and watersheds for future generations.
Read our full report and recommendations here.