Why We Are Focused on Growing our Community

By Jesse Zeman, Executive Director of the B.C. Wildlife Federation. 

Over the past two years, the B.C. Wildlife Federation (BCWF) has conducted in-depth research into our membership, the hunting and angling community, as well as the broader public.  As an organization, it’s important for the BCWF to understand demographic change, people’s motivations around hunting, angling, and conservation, and perceptions of the BCWF.  Additionally, we know that we need to focus on appealing to a younger demographic to ensure the future of the BCWF and hunting and angling. 

Hunting and angling have been widely perceived as an activity for Caucasian males. That is changing rapidly, and we should see that as a good thing. Hunting, angling, and conservation are for everyone, and welcoming newcomers is essential to the long-term health of the BCWF. 

Engaging more British Columbians in outdoor pursuits and wild food harvesting increases our clout as an organization and ensures that these opportunities are available to future generations. 

The fastest growing demographic in hunting and angling is adult women. We are also seeing increased diversity in the hunting and angling community, particularly on the Lower Mainland.  Hunting and angling are also increasingly becoming family activities.  However, people are not joining the BCWF in proportion to that rising interest.   

Through our market research we are identifying opportunities to grow the outdoors community as well as the BCWF member base. We have also identified a number of barriers, most importantly the perception that certain demographics of people will not be welcomed by the hunting and angling community. 

Part of our strategy to grow the hunting and angling community, and the BCWF, is to understand the needs of people in non-traditional demographics, and to identify avenues for entry. We are focusing on training new hunters and anglers about conservation and ethics from an early age to increase public support and improve perceptions of the hunting and angling community. 

You may have noticed that the BCWF is increasingly promoting public events and educational programs such Becoming an Outdoors Woman, Woman Outdoors, National Range Day, Youth Camps, Gently Down the Seymour, and Family Fishing Weekend.  Over time this will increase public support for what we do, the number of hunters and anglers, and the BCWF membership. 

Overall, our research leads us to believe that we can increase public support for hunting and fishing if we welcome these non-traditional groups. 

As it relates to reconciliation and First Nations relationships, the BCWF conducts dozens of conservation projects with First Nations every year across the province including: the Southern Interior Mule Deer project, prescribed and cultural burns, fish habitat restoration, and wetlands restoration.  We believe the future of reconciliation is related to restoring fishwildlife, and habitat to build relationships, while ensuring public access.   

Our investment in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion addresses two needs.  One is to better understand new entrants to hunting and angling, how we can communicate with them, and successfully bring them into the community and the BCWF.  Second is the need to adopt a policy on reconciliation so that there is consistency from our executive to our board, our team in the office, and membership in terms of what reconciliation means to the BCWF.  Both of these are big jobs that we cannot do effectively without support from experienced professionals. 

This part of our strategy is about welcoming a diverse mix of people into hunting and angling so that we can improve the long-term viability of conservation, hunting and angling, and our member base in British Columbia.  It is also about having a policy that guides how the BCWF works with First Nations and how it sees reconciliation. 

I hope this helps clarify what we are doing and why.  Overall, this is about building the hunting and angling community in British Columbia so that we can continue to enjoy these activities for generations to come. 

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