The government of British Columbia unveiled their budget this week, and The Fur-Bearers took some time to examine it and see how it may impact wildlife, policy, and programs in the province.
Our highlights are shrouded in opinion, but the all of the numbers and quotes come directly from the various budget documents posted at BCBudget.gov.bc.ca.
$9M over three years to hire 20 new Conservation Officers and enhance the WildSafe BC Program (Ministry of Environment): It is no secret that the Conservation Officer Service and WildSafe BC Programs are underfunded. We support an increase to these essential programs, however, hope that the funding comes with the caveat that independent, third-party reviews take place (as recommended in the Auditor General’s report) to improve services, evaluate successes and failures, and ensure that true stewardship of wildlife and natural places held in the public trust is taking place.
New funding of $14M to Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to “enhance planning and management with the objective of improved protection and recovery measures for wildlife populations. The new wildlife management strategy will support inventory monitoring as well as habitat and biodiversity conservation. This work will be done in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, stakeholders and communities”: Again, an increase in funding to an underserved portfolio is positive, however, we are concerned about the politicizing of wildlife management by special interest groups. Science is indicating that whole ecosystems, not just game species, or species that compete with human interests for game species, need to be addressed and protected. Additionally, we are hopeful that this government will recognize stakeholders are not just those who want to use wildlife for consumptive purposes such as hunting and trapping, but those who enjoy wildlife for other means, and respect the importance of healthy ecosystems.
Creation of endangered species law that will harmonize with other laws (Ministry of Environment): endangered species law in British Columbia is long overdue, and so long as it is based in science and does not allow resource extraction to dictate terms, it should be seen as a positive.
Policies, standards, and regulations that are clear, consistent, predictable, science-based and effective (Objective 3.2 for Ministry of Environment): This is a lofty ideal that we believe is best for the animals, as well as all those involved. However, past governments in British Columbia lauded a report as indicative of their “rigorous” approach to wildlife management, despite warnings within that report that said they were relying too heavily on non-scientific methods. We will have to wait and see how this plays out.
Optimize outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities within parks and protected areas (Objective 3.4 for Ministry of Environment): A 2012 report showed a growing trend of people recreating outdoors and participating in non-consumptive activities in natural areas. An emphasis at the provincial level on non-consumptive activities will mean an opportunity for increased safety standards and conversation about stewardship and the public trust. It may also mean a need for increased education about wildlife protection and safety.
Much remains to be seen about how this budget and policies will play out – but at The Fur-Bearers we are optimistic, because we (and the animals) have you in our corner.