After province ‘dropped the ball’ community needs to find money for wildlife program

The communities of Powell River Regional District are struggling with human-bear conflict. They know how to fix it. They have a plan. But now, they need the money.

According to Peak Online, conservation officer Sergeant Murray Smith asked the Powell River Committee of the Whole to find funding to support a paid position to mimic the WildSafeBC program.

“[In 2006] we received your support,” Smith was quoted as saying in the Peak Online article. “Unfortunately, the province dropped the ball at that time and we went into a bit of an austerity period.”

A bit of an austerity period is an understatement – the Peak Online reports that the 21 funded programs across the province were reduced to a mere seven.

“We are trying to balance the safety of the community, the livestock producers, as well as ensuring wildlife isn’t destroyed because it’s in conflict,” he said. “We are trying to educate the public.”

The province has reportedly offered to pay $10,000 to a paid position for a six-month contract if community groups and municipalities come up with the rest of the funding themselves.

There is a clear need in Powell River for a wildlife education program for citizens. Smith noted that 10 bears had been killed as a result of conflict in the area so far this year – and there’s no reason to expect that number to change unless human behaviour changes, too.

The environment and wildlife are two of British Columbia’s richest natural resources – so long as they’re protected and residents are taught how to be appropriate caretakers and neighbours. It is a criminal shame that the government has walked away from funding important programs like these. And we hope that Powell River Regional District are able to come up with the money – not just for taxpayers, but for the families of bears who live there, too.

Photo by Tracy Riddell

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