Long Awaited Wildlife Habitat Report Released
Prince George, B.C. – MLA for Prince George- Mackenzie, Mike Morris, has completed his report on wildlife habitat in the province, a report which contains 18 recommendations.
The report “Getting the Balance Right: Improving Wildlife Habitat Management in British Columbia” was developed in the wake of the mountain pine beetle infestation and the upswing in timber harvesting. Morris was tasked with looking at how the infestation and increased forestry activity impacted wildlife habitat in the Interior.
Morris points out there is a delicate balance to be achieved between developing natural resources ( such as forestry and mining) and maintaining healthy ecosystems for B.C.’s wildlife, a natural resource which also contributes to the well being of British Columbians.
Among his recommendations, Morris believes the most important one in his mind is the valuation of wildlife ” We do a great job in putting a value on fibre, precious metals, oil and gas, but we do nothing to indicate the value of wildlife and that’s a necessary ingredient in determining how we develop our resources in a balanced and sustainable way”.
He calls for a new Wildlife management plan that should start with a comprehensive wildlife inventory. He also suggests the Province develop a ‘real time ‘ reporting system for hunters and trappers to report harvest results.
Morris recommends that in order to address the cumulative impacts of development, there be a comprehensive review of all resource statutes “with a view to consolidation where it is determined to add value and benefit”. That recommendation isn’t gaining any traction with the Minister in charge, Steve Thomson, who says consolidation of resource statues has been considered in the past “and found to be too cumbersome for managing our diverse natural resources effectively”.
The report also calls for the Ministry to “Harness the wisdom, talent and expertise of BC Wildlife practitioners in wildlife/habitat management”. Morris says these people have “decades of intimate knowledge of the particular spatial area that their tenures cover, often spatial areas where they have fished, hunted, and resided. These unique individuals possess knowledge that will enhance the ability of government to accurately assess habitat, wildlife populations, and environmental changes associated to resource development and natural disturbances like forest fires and flooding.”
Morris also calls for action to address ‘access management’ “With the amount of forestry activity we’ve had over the past ten years to deal with the pine beetle, we’ve had thousands of kilometres of access roads put in , which I think have had led to overharvesting (of wildlife) which I think contributed to the decrease in the moose and deer populations across the province.”
He also called for wildlife management areas to be adjusted to better reflect common geography and watersheds.
Morris says he was very impressed with the oil and gas sector, “I was expecting to see a lot more degradation of the habitat, but they have come a long way in how they put in seismic lines and how they do their work up there, with single cleared areas serving up to 30 different wells on the one site, so they’ve done a lot of work which I was really surprised at, and my hat’s off to the oil and gas industry for being that progressive.”
Minister Thomson says his Ministry has “several current and strategic and operational activities at varying stages of development that correspond to recommendations in the report.”
He says Government is already moving forward with phase one of ‘hunter transformation’ that will see a portion of the hunter registry and licencing moved to an electronic system in the coming year. The second phase will see enhanced collection and storage of harvest data.