Open Letter to All BC MLAs Concerning a Plan to Turn the Management of Our Wildlife Over to a Non-Government Agency
(June 27, 2017) On March 22, 2017, the BC government announced a decision to transfer wildlife managementfrom the provincial government to a separate agency funded by sales of hunting licences and potentiallydonations from private interest groups. The government said it had allocated $200,000for a public consultation process to determine the governance model and funding sources of thenew agency. However, the creation of the agency, itself, was presented to the public as a done dealafter consultations solely with hunting interests. Media reports stated that “local hunting,conservation and wildlife groups will establish the framework for a new independent group.”
The wildlife of the province belongs to all British Columbians, and has by law been heldby the government in trust, to conserve the wildlife itself, and to ensure the rights of all membersof the public. The British Columbia Wildlife Act states that “Ownership in all wildlife in BritishColumbia is vested in the government.” That means that elected representatives can be held accountablefor their wildlife decisions through general elections and in courts. Indeed, agroundswell of public unhappiness with the way our wildlife has been mismanaged (grizzly beartrophy hunt) was a significant issue in the recent election.
In announcing the proposed new agency, Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett stated inthe media that “The government is afraid to manage wolves, or afraid to manage grizzly bears insome cases because of the politics of that. Hopefully, an agency that is separate from governmentcan make decisions that are in the best long-term interest of wildlife and just forget aboutthe politics and do what is best for the animals.”
We are sorry to learn that Minister Bennett believes our government representatives cannotapply the wildlife laws and science in an unbiased manner, since we believed that’s what theywere elected to do. However, they are accountable to voters, whereas an independent agencywould not be. It would have no duty to represent all British Columbians, and would be far moresusceptible to influence by special interest groups.
BC does not need a new wildlife agency to ensure that fees paid by hunters will supportwildlife management. Currently, these fees go into the BC government’s consolidated revenuepool. There has never been any reason why the government cannot forward an equal amount andmore to wildlife management projects, since commercial wildlife viewing brings in more revenueas well. But if the fees for hunting licenses were to go directly to a non-government agencythat decides hunting quotas, the agency can then increase its own funding, staff and salaries by selling more huntingtags; this would induce managers to turn a blind eye to the scientific facts governing wildlife populations, and thefocus would be on increasing the numbers of game animals, rather than on ecosystem health.
We’re told the newagency would be able to accept donations from “outside groups that have an interest in wildlife”. In the past US hunters groups have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into BC to influence wildlife management (Van. Sun,Mar. 10, 2003), but they have never been able to pay the government wildlife ministries directly. This funding sourcewould increase the risk of outside control.
We recognize that bias has already had a negative impact on wildlife management in BC. For instance, theprovince maintains grizzly bear trophy hunting despite the disapproval of a huge majority of the urban and ruralBritish Columbians surveyed; despite scientists’ warning that the animals are imperilled, and despite the fact thatgrizzly bear viewing brings in far more revenue than grizzly bear hunting. Meanwhile, over the last decade the staffand funding for our wildlife stewardship ministries have been slashed to the bone, with a great loss of conservationofficers, biologists, and research capacity. The plan for a non-government agency can only make all these importantmatters much worse.
We call your attention to the fact that BC has a serious biodiversity crisis. It has over 1,500 species at risk. Scientistshave said that the rapid demise of species can cause ecosystem collapse, and is actually a threat to the futuresurvival of life on the planet. Never at any time has it been more important to manage wildlife, forests, and all ournatural resources to promote biological diversity and ecological integrity. Yet hunting fees and donations from privateinterests are unlikely to fund the research and actions on non-game species and habitat that are required.The undersigned organizations and businesses call on all government representatives to recognize that wildlife isa critical public interest that needs to be safeguarded from exploitation by private interests and supported by our taxdollars.
We urge you to:
1) Cancel the plan for an “independent” agency.
2) Increase the wildlife management staff and funding of government ministries.
3) Recognize that BC has a biodiversity crisis; it requires a shift in focus from juggling numbers of game animalsfor hunters, to applying the science of ecology.
4) Recognize that all British Columbians are stakeholders in our wildlife. All interest groups should be equallyempowered. Only about 2% of the total BC population are registered hunters, whereas a huge majority ofBritish Columbians care about the welfare of our wildlife and ecosystems.
Sara Dubois, BC SPCA
Barb Murray, Bears Matter
Bonny Glambeck, Clayoquot Action
Friends of the Lardeau River
Sylvia Dolson, Get Bear Smart Society
Jefferson Bray, Great Bear Chalet
Humane Society International/Canada
Valerie Murray, Justice for BC Grizzlies
Peter Hamilton, Lifeforce Foundation
Ocean Adventures Charter Co. Ltd.
Gary and Ronda Murdock
Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tours Inc.
Ian McAllister, Pacific Wild
Purcell Alliance for Wilderness
Raincoast Conservation Foundation
Dr. Rick Zammuto
Adrian Nelson, The Fur-Bearers
Craig Pettitt, Valhalla Wilderness Society
Emily Pickett, Vancouver Humane Society
Joe Foy, Wilderness Committee
Tommy Knowles, Wildlife Defense League
Sadie Parr, Wolf Awareness Inc.
Julie Woodyer, Zoocheck Canada
Kootenay Reflections Photography