By David Lewis
With the stroke of a pen, (Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development) Donaldson has made the decision to move towards privatization of B.C.’s wildlife, a cherished resource with high social value that rightfully belongs to all British Columbians.
Our hunting opportunities are to be managed sustainably, in the public’s interest, and in public trust. Instead, we see a trend towards privatization that benefits foreign and commercial hunting interests at the expense of B.C. residents.
In short, B.C. resident hunter opportunities are being systematically chiselled away by Donaldson and his staff through intentional displacement of resident hunt-for-food opportunities.
Wildlife allocation is the sustainable harvest based on a foundation science, to be divided between residents of B.C. and non-residents, after First Nations ceremonial, social and food have been provided for. The intent of an established wildlife allocation is that it’s used for its intended purpose and that B.C. residents have priority over non-residents. What this government has done is manipulate policy allowing the commercial hunting sector to retain allocation that they’re unable to utilize, ultimately privatizing wildlife by denying access to resident public.
Government harvest data for the period 2012 – 2016 revealed that the commercial hunting sector had grossly underutilized their allocated share of moose in Skeena south. Of the 28 guide outfitters operating in the area, 1,529 moose were allocated to them, of which they harvested 706.
This equates to less than 50 per cent of the moose allocated to guide outfitters in the area being utilized. This is not the result of hindering regulation on the industry, but simply an allocation provided to them by government grossly exceeding demand.
What many may not realize is that the intent of such a management direction is to grow trophy class animals for the purpose of catering to commercial trophy hunting interests and to achieve this by removing resident sustenance hunter access and opportunity.
In 2015 the Liberal government made a series of wildlife harvest allocation policy changes that spurred public protest that was supported by the NDP who were the party of opposition at that time. Ironically now that the NDP has been elected they’ve reneged on those commitments, stating that the policy established in 2015 has been reviewed and now support its direction.
They stated further that any unused commercial allocation would no longer be shifted to resident hunters, which ultimately sets the direction towards privatization of B.C.’s wildlife. The B.C. resident hunting community is losing to commercial and foreign hunting interest lobbyists.
The question then becomes – are resident public and our wildlife’s best interest being served by our government, or is this a reflection of cronyism at the heart of this government’s decision-making process? A theme that unfortunately seems to be inundating mainstream media today on so many levels.
David Lewis is president of the Northwest Fish and Wildlife Conservation Association