The Auditor General released her long-awaited report on grizzly bear management – and it shows that the government has a lot of work ahead of it. In prepared statements, Auditor General Carol Bellringer noted that there remain many areas where improvement is necessary to adequately manage grizzly bears. The headline on the news release summed it up nicely: Ministries’ management of grizzly bears did not meet expectations.
“Grizzly bear populations in some areas of BC are increasing, but this is likely happening independently from an adequate management framework,” the news release stated. “Bellringer and her team found that the Ministries [Environment as well as Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations] haven’t fulfilled many of their commitments.”
The full 74-page report can be read by clicking here, but we have highlighted a few select comments to share:
- “Currently, there is no organized inventory and limited monitoring of grizzly bears. We found that one of the reasons this work is not being carried out is that there is no dedicated ministry funding.” (page 6)
- “The Conservation Officer Service (COS) within the Ministry of Environment works to reduce illegal activities such as poaching, attracting wildlife, or failing to report a bear killed due to conflict. We expected the COS to be evaluating the tools and resources it has available (warnings, tickets and formal charges) to ensure they are effective and sufficient, but no such evaluations have taken place.” (page 7)
- “The COS relies on WildSafe BC to deliver an education program to prevent conflict with bears but the program is limited and the COS has not evaluated it for its effectiveness.” (page 8)
- “Many land use plans have objectives for maintaining grizzly bear habitat. We found that over half of these plans have not been monitored or evaluated.” (page 8)
- “MoE, under the Oil and Gas Activities Act, has the power to order an independent audit of the performance of the oil and gas commission to ensure the protection and effective management of the environment. However, to date, MoE has not carried out an independent audit of the OGC, nor are staff clear as to how such an audit would be triggered.” (page 9)
- “We found that even though there is transparency of information regarding grizzly bears, there is little information on management activities and performance measures.” (page 10)
The theme throughout the document is stated very clearly in a key findings and recommendations section (page 29): “There is no plan to implement the strategic direction for grizzly bears in BC.”
The failures within the government’s existing procedures and policies are in line with concerns raised by The Fur-Bearers and other non-profit, namely lacks of transparency and oversight within the ministries responsible, as well as over the involvement and planning of industry sectors. Additionally, basic concerns over the accuracy of population counts, and how that could impact planning, was raised by the report. The Fur-Bearers are also pleased to note that the Auditor General’s report identifies the need for the Conservation Officer Service to engage in internal reviews, grow and adapt to responsibilities and conflict, and, though not listed, hopefully create objective oversight of their work.
What this means for hunting of grizzly bears
The Auditor General report does not comment on hunting outside of the monitoring of activities and enforcement of activities; however, MLA Adam Olson has called for a “moratorium on grizzly bear by bringing hunting tags [bought] down to zero while we take the time to review our wildlife management practices and plan for a landscape altered by climate change."
These comments are insightful and could be reflected in your comments to the province in their effort to collect public feedback on changing policy. Click here to learn more.
This is significant – a major government body is recognizing failures in the system that were identified and advocated about by non-profits such as The Fur-Bearers. Hopefully, this means changes that will support better species and habitat protection for animals like grizzlies. And we can bolster that hope with an ongoing dose of science-informed, compassionate advocacy.
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