Major change in wildlife management in B.C.
B.C. Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson announced today that all hunting licence revenue will be re-invested to enhance wildlife management activities.
Based on input from stakeholders over the last few years, the government will form a new agency in fall 2017 with startup funds of $5 million. The agency subsequently would be supported by hunting licence revenues of $9 million to $10 million each year.
Currently, hunting licence revenues support a number of government activities. Hunting licence surcharges totalling more than $2.6 million annually would still be dedicated to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation for its conservation projects.
To determine the governance model and investment priorities for the new agency, government has budgeted $200,000 to support a process to engage with key wildlife stakeholder groups, First Nations and the public later this spring.
The shift toward a stand-alone agency builds on previous accomplishments in enhancing wildlife management, including: finalizing the wildlife allocation policy; implementing a moose enhancement strategy; bringing in an e-licensing system; and increasing First Nations’ participation in wildlife management. The collaborative process used to produce the 2016 moose enhancement strategy also identified how B.C.’s wildlife management framework could be modernized, a Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations press release explained.
Wildlife populations are managed on the principle of “conservation first.” Currently, the ministry spends over $18 million per year on wildlife management activities.
“While B.C. has a robust model of wildlife management, we recognize the need to enhance our core activities. This management framework and additional funding will do that,” Thomson stated.
The move has the approval of key provincial stakeholder organizations.
“The B.C. Wildlife Federation commends the province for its commitment to dedicate hunting licence revenues to a stand-alone agency to enhance wildlife management. The BCWF, on behalf of our 50,000 members, is pleased to have our call for greater investment in fish, wildlife and habitat realized through this investment,” said Jim Glaicar, president of the B.C. Wildlife Federation.
Scott Ellis, executive director, Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. added, “The Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia is excited about the government’s commitment to increase funding for wildlife. We support initiatives to enhance and grow healthy wildlife populations in British Columbia.”
“The Wildlife Stewardship Council is in support of any initiative that enhances wildlife in B.C. We look forward to more discussions and providing input on how the agency will work later this spring,” said Erick Mikkelson, vice-president of the Wildlife Stewardship Council.
“We’re supportive of any initiatives that will help to grow wildlife populations,” added Brian Dack, president of the B.C. Trappers Association.
Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett said he views today’s announcement as a personal victory because it is something he’s been working on for years. He also stressed it is not related to the upcoming election.
“It is something I have personally been working on for two years, following a recommendation I made in my Core Review Report in December, 2015. I’ve been working on the idea for a decade and it is an important part of my legacy as a B.C. MLA. It is not in response to the current concern about wildlife populations and is not simply an election announcement. It is an important public policy announcement, a major change in direction,” he said.
B.C. is home to more than 1,138 species of vertebrates, including 488 bird species, 142 mammal species, 18 reptile species, 22 amphibian species, 83 freshwater fish species and 368 saltwater fish species.
There are over 100,000 registered hunters in the province. It is estimated that hunting activities (including those of resident hunters and guide outfitters) contribute $350 million each year to B.C.’s economy, the government press release noted.