The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) hosted its annual convention in Vancouver from September 18-22. This convention is important because it’s the main forum for policy-making in B.C. It provides an opportunity for local governments and the province to come together to discuss emerging policy issues, take a united stand, and pass resolutions.
This year, The Fur-Bearers took part in the two-day trade show, where we set up our booth to engage municipalities about wildlife related issues.The UBCM convention is a key opportunity for The Fur-Bearers to connect with municipal government officials, and advocate for strong policies and programs to protect wildlife.
We were pleased with the level of engagement and moved by the personal stories that municipal staff, councillors, and mayors all shared about wildlife in their communities (and often backyards!).
There were representatives from many municipalities who were fully switched-on to the needs of wildlife and did not hesitate to share the important municipal measures they currently had in place. There were other municipalities that acknowledged more work needed to be done but they expressed a serious interest in creating change. Of the resources we provided at our table, the Wildlife Attractant Bylaw Toolkit was among the most popular, signaling an interest from many municipalities to consider bylaws, enforcement and programs that will help protect people and wildlife in their communities.
Throughout the 2-day trade show, we discussed a range of topics: wildlife attractant bylaws, non-lethal approaches to beaver management, the importance of not feeding urban wildlife, black bear deaths in communities, challenges in enforcement, the impact of traps in urban areas, the need for greater education around wildlife, the impact of the fires on wildlife, and educating children about coexistence. The following are a glimpse into some of issues identified by representatives from municipalities we spoke to:
- Hudson’s Hope: Expressed interest in non-lethal beaver management and attractant management strategies for black bears.
- Ucluelet: Discussed the high number of black bears in the area, attractant management, and the need for education about attractants for visitors, tourists and seasonal employees.
- Belcarra: The village told us about their strong wildlife attractant bylaw which includes provisions against wildlife feeding and a high penalty.
- Elkford: The district noted its wildlife attractant bylaw. It also has a comprehensive webpage dedicated to urban wildlife, and Elkford even has an Urban Wildlife Committee!
- Lumby: We discussed the village’s wildlife attractant bylaw which includes provisions against feeding of any wild animal. We also discussed the need for education around prevention.
- Revelstoke: Noted the strong community involvement around wildlife, specifically for black bears.
- Tahsis: Discussed the range of wildlife in the community and expressed interest in receiving our free printed materials related to managing attractants for black bears.
- Colwood: Representatives discussed the growing number of incidents with black bears, as the city is rapidly expanding. Discussed need for effective signage to educate the public about wildlife.
- Thomson Nicola Regional District: Discussed the impact of drought and wildfires, observing that the extreme climate events of this year are forcing wildlife into more urban areas.
- Coquitlam: A family of beavers is living in the city, but coexistence measures like tree wrapping have been implemented to allow the family to keep its home.
- Mackenzie: Lots of wildlife in the area, but enforcement challenges are a barrier.
- Port Hardy: Noted the community’s Bear Smart status, observed the drop in black bears in the town since bear smart measures were implemented.
- Nelson: Noted the challenges around black bears and attractant management, need for education for new residents and visitors.
This list is certainly not exhaustive, as we felt like we covered the entire province, from small rural communities to the province’s largest cities. Apologies to those we missed! Common themes that emerged were around the need for more community engagement, education, better attractant management and more enforcement (ticketing) through both bylaw and the BC Conservation Officer Service. There was encouraging sentiment from many governments around prioritizing non-lethal approaches to wildlife management and the willingness to coexist with wildlife, as there is a growing recognition that killing or relocating wildlife does not solve root problems. Many municipal councillors also expressed that their constituents want to have wildlife on the landscape and are very open to solutions that help keep everyone (including the animals) safe.
In our humble opinion, our booth was a hit at the convention as there was a steady stream of people who wanted to chat about wild animals and learn about the ways that The Fur-Bearers can help. There were many issues and challenges identified, in addition to many communities who have shown leadership on wildlife issues. After the convention, The Fur-Bearers’ staff reflected on this experience, and we’re now armed with a wealth of information, new contacts, and a strong desire to keep advocating for wildlife and creating wildlife-friendly communities across the province.
We want to express our gratitude to everyone who made this event possible. To our donors and supporters, because of you, we are able to attend events like the UBCM convention to reach new audiences, engage in important policy discussions, and ultimately strengthen protections for wildlife. With such a devastating year for fires and drought in B.C., we are heartened that we were able to give wildlife a voice on this stage. Thank you for your continued support.
Special thanks to Vancouver Graphics Group for the printed materials, Broadview Design for designing our new banner, Multigraphics for printing the banner, Everything Wine for the draw prize and to Bob Morgan for donating a laptop/tablet computer! Amazing!
Finally, thank you to all staff and elected officials in local governments across the province who are bringing positive change for wildlife in British Columbia.