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Evan Saugstad: Wildlife management in B.C. - An organized mess

Part 3 in a series

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British Columbia is unique in terms of the range of our ecosystems and biodiversity. B.C. could also be considered North America’s melting pot in terms of how our environment is organized and the diversity of wildlife that use it.

B.C. is where the north (cool) meets the south (warm), east (prairies) meets west (mountains), wet (coastal) meets interior (dry), low (sea level) meets high (alpine), with everything in between.

We also have the unfortunate reality that the Supreme Court of Canada decided that human population numbers equate to political representation. B.C., like most of the world, sees our cities growing faster than rural areas, resulting in political representation increasing in urban areas and declining in rural areas. As most “good” politicians tend to do, they support decisions and budgets favouring their urban ridings, leaving fewer and fewer scraps for what is required to manage sparsely populated rural areas.

As I wrote in Part 2, we also have the centralization of government and their statutory decision making powers being slowly transferred from a diverse B.C. into a single building in Victoria where everyone is encouraged to think and act the same.

Taken together, these factors lead to an inadequate understanding of what is required to effectively manage the 90% of B.C.’s landmass that is considered rural, and outside of our population centres in southwestern B.C. An insufficient budget to fund the ministries that regulate our rural landscapes and lack of understanding by our elected representatives leads to the current mismanagement we now experience.

Countering this is the call by many organizations that we need to follow the science and get back to managing things for the betterment of our critters and not just for what is political expedient for our masters.

I agree, but… Whose science do we follow?

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Grizzly Bears in the Pine Pass. - Evan Saugstad

Our biologist world is just as mixed up as our political world.

Don’t believe this? Then pick one issue relating to wildlife management, go online and try to make sense of the dozens of differing views by biologists, at least from those who call themselves biologists, experts, or scientists.

Hard to pick whose science to follow.

Unfortunately, this mishmash of so-called expert or knowledgeable biologists is not going away anytime soon.

Biologists that lived their lives looking after our critters are mostly gone from our wildlife management branch (retired), and are now being replaced by a new generation who believe we need to do things differently.

Decisions like killing moose to see if that works to increase caribou, or create another park to see if that works, or only focus on endangered species (orca, caribou) thinking they are more important than other species populations (i.e., moose, mule deer), have now become the norm.

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An elk in the South Peace. - Evan Saugstad

Most of B.C.’s biologists receive their education in B.C.’s three big universities: SFU, UBC, and UVic. In years past this was not an issue as students were trained by instructors who knew and understood what they were teaching.

Today’s biologists get much of their training from political activists masquerading as professors. Activist instructors who detest the rural B.C. we currently have with active forestry, mining, ranching, gas and oil development, and pipelines.

They now preach to our children, their students, that all this must stop if B.C. is going to maintain our biological diversity. They also teach that it is not a biologist’s job to figure out how to balance human needs with those of our critters.

This new type of employee they create is now populating our ministries and becoming our natural resource decision makers.

Combine the political decisions to not fund or provide the resources required for proper management with biologists more interested in shutting things down rather than managing, and then throw in the mess we call land claims, which others will call “rightful ownership.”

Not hard to figure out why not much managing is occurring, other than the 'shut’er down' or 'stop what you are doing' mentality.

Also, not hard to figure out why we see large parts of B.C. being barricaded to hunters and fishers when the prevailing beliefs are that there are insufficient resources to meet local needs, never mind everyone else’s. When we believe government is not looking after what we currently have, need, or cherish, those that can will begin to protest and protect what they deem as theirs, irrespective of government.

We also see the politically active ENGO organizations working double-time lobbying that B.C. must stop what we are doing. Hence the 'all or nothing' solutions they espouse, which are meant to divide those of us who care, as their intent is not to have a diverse rural economy that uses our natural resources wisely.

Their intent is to have a playground to visit where consumptive users of our environment are absent.

The reality is we need to meet on some type of common ground and convince government to be there with us.

In some places we will need to protect and conserve more, in others, focus on the values that support our communities.

As the old saying goes: Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

I just hope that does not apply to our great province.

Evan Saugstad is a former mayor of Chetwynd, and is one of hundreds of thousands of B.C.’s hunters and fishers. He lives in Fort St. John.

Read more:

Wildlife management in B.C., Part 1 - Who cares?

Wildlife management in B.C., Part 2 - Politics rule