By Lyonel Doherty
The BC Wildlife Federation is urging the public to speak up in order to save a dying resource that’s starving for funding.
The 50,000-member federation painted a gloomy picture of renewable resource management in BC during a town hall meeting at the Oliver Elks Hall last Wednesday.
Spokesperson Jesse Zeman gave a PowerPoint presentation that he said would make a lot of people angry in terms of seeing significant declines in wildlife numbers and funding in the province.
He said fish and wildlife are in trouble today because of a history of improper management and a lack of financial commitment from government.
Zeman said all other government ministries have seen funding increases except for natural resources (fish and wildlife).
For example, he noted that funding for these renewable resources declined 56 per cent between the years 1998 and 2011.
“Hunters and anglers are the only ones paying back into the resource,” Zeman said.
He pointed out that the annual fish and wildlife budget in BC is 34 million, compared to much smaller Idaho that receives 106 million a year.
“Everything other than fish and wildlife (in BC) is getting the budget,” Zeman said.
He noted that the mountain caribou has been declining for years and is now considered an endangered species. He said the Thompson region has seen a decline in caribou from 400 to 130 between 1978-2014, and in the Kootenay region, from 500 to 280.
Zeman said there are only 430 steelhead left in the Thompson River.
He also showed a graph depicting the decline of mule deer in the Kootenay region, where numbers dwindled from 4,500 to 500 between 1987 and 2014.
“In the Chilcotin, the steelhead is functionally extinct,” Zeman said.
The program manager also said the Okanagan mountain goat has declined to 250 animals, compared to 562 in 1984.
Zeman said fish and wildlife in BC really need “social support” to bring back adequate levels of funding. He said this can best be done by people talking to their elected officials.
“People don’t talk to politicians about fish and wildlife . . . you are a huge force but nobody knows what you care about.”
Zeman urged residents to ask their politicians what they are going to do to recover the fish and wildlife resource in BC.
He also encouraged people to visit the website www.bcwf.net to sign a petition calling on the BC government to increase funding and to set objectives for fish, wildlife and habitat.
Zeman said it doesn’t make sense that BC is one of the most biodiverse jurisdictions in North America yet is one of the most under-funded.
Green Party candidate Vonnie Lavers said
BC cannot afford to budget zero for fish and wildlife renewal and can’t afford to continue depleting its resources.
“Super natural BC stands to lose not only its biodiversity but huge economic benefits if we don’t take restoration and conservation of wildlife habitat and our watersheds more seriously.”
Lavers said the province needs proper scientific planning to bring back abundance. “We must manage to increase fish and wildlife – not just measure what’s left. That means experts on the ground year-round and investments in our ecosystem.”
Lavers said hunters and anglers want their children and great grandchildren to be able to hunt and fish for food and also enjoy outdoor recreation.
“They get it, they live in it and love it, and they understand the economics. I am heartened by the response.”
NDP candidate Colleen Ross and Liberal MLA Linda Larson could not be reached for comment by press time.