Province to form new wildlife conservation agency

A new conservation agency is to be formed in the fall of this year using funds from the sale of hunting licences.

The province announced that a new conservation agency would be formed in the fall of this year and would be partially funded from the sale of hunting licences.

The new agency will be formed with $5 million in provincial start-up funds. It would then be supported by $9 to $10 million a year in hunting licence revenue.

Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson made the announcement on March 22.

“While B.C. has a robust model of wildlife management, we recognize the need to enhance our core activities,” he said in a statement. “This management framework and additional funding will do that.”

The government has budgeted $200,000 to fund an engagement process with stakeholders, including First Nations and conservation groups, to decide on the governance model and investment priorities of the new agency.

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett applauded the move and said that successive provincial governments have been taking wildlife populations for granted.

He said the province was finally acknowledging that wildlife populations require investment to be maintained.

“I know hunters have been saying that to me for a very long time,” said Bennett.

“I think, finally, that the government has realized the status quo is not good enough because we are seeing our populations diminish and we need to understand why,” he added.

There are over 100,000 registered hunters in the province. It is estimated that their activities contribute $350 million a year to B.C.’s economy.

Some conservation groups applauded the move.

“The B.C. Wildlife Federation commends the province for its commitment to dedicate hunting licence revenues to a stand-alone agency to enhance wildlife management,” said Jim Glaicar, president of the B.C. Wildlife Federation.

However, John Bergenske conservation director of Wildsight, said the province’s announcement of a new wildlife management agency raises more questions than it answers.

Bergenske said the new conservation agency’s funding model would take the power to make wildlife management decisions away from scientists and give it to hunters.

He also said the government’s announcement was short on details and did not outline a mandate for the new agency.

“Is this wildlife agency aimed at enhancing wildlife? Or is it an attempt to remove management responsibility from government, making it ever more difficult for the public to hold government responsible?” he asked in a statement.