Grizzly bear population at risk as B.C. Liberal government aligns with trophy hunters
From 2005 to 2013, guide associations across B.C. made $84,800.00 in political donations. The Liberal Party of B.C. received 84 per cent of that money, getting $73,275.00. The NDP received the remaining $11,525.00, usually in the months leading up to provincial elections.
Trophy hunters over B.C. interests?
The latest set of changes to hunting operations in B.C. sparked outrage from resident hunters around the province when they were announced in December.
The new amendments, which alter how wildlife will be allocated between hunters, reduces the number of hunting licenses available to B.C. residents so that more licenses can be sold to foreign hunters.
In most jurisdictions across North America, only five to 10 per cent of the harvestable wildlife surplus is saved for non-resident hunters. The recent amendments plan to increase that figure to 40 per cent for certain species – like grizzly bears.
“Proposed changes to the Wildlife Allocation Policy are inconsistent with standard practices in other jurisdictions across Canada and in the United States,” said George Wilson, President of the B.C. Wildlife Federation (BCWF), in a statement. “There is no justification for these changes and they are not supported by B.C.’s resident hunters.”
This change will translate to roughly 5,000 fewer permits available for local hunters, many of whom are already struggling to get permits to harvest popular animals like moose, so non-resident hunters can hunt more, said the Wildlife Federation.
“B.C. residents who depend on hunting to help sustain their families should be supported by provincial government policy,” said Jesse Zeman, a BCWF director. “The overriding priority for all hunters is conservation, ensuring there is enough game available for First Nations, and then fulfilling the hunting needs of B.C. families.”
The steady trend of changes to hunting regulations favours foreign hunters and the guide outfitting industry that profits off of their visits, the BCWF wrote in a statement.
“Our objective is to maintain the environment for future generations. That is really our mission and sole focus, that's what we worry about,” Zeman told the Vancouver Observer. “We make our decisions based on data and science and sometimes with the government’s policies it doesn't necessarily feel like those things are lining up."
"I don't think everyone in the province knows what happens and where the priorities are and where the funding comes from,” he said.
But according to Raincoast Conservation, the new allocation policy, while flawed, is nevertheless better for bear conservation than the system that was in place since 2007, because the numbers are fixed. In the previous policy, a hunter could lose his or her bear harvesting quota if the quota wasn't met.
After a month of outcry from the B.C. public, Liberal MLA Bill Bennett acknowledged the government "didn't get it quite right" with the allocation policy amendments. A revised policy will be announced at the end of January, he said.
Photo of grizzly bear by Andrew S. Wright