British Columbia’s biodiversity is globally significant: we are home to the broadest diversity of wildlife and ecosystems of any province or territory in Canada, including some species not found anywhere else on earth. BC’s wildlife and their habitat face unprecedented and accelerating challenges due to climate change, increasing human activity and competing pressures on the landbase. These pressures are resulting in significant declines in wildlife populations throughout the province.
In the Kootenays, we have seen declines of 30% and more in elk, bighorn sheep, moose and goat populations over the last two decades. We are seeing a continued loss of both fish and wildlife habitat as our human footprint grows. Logging, mining and recreation continue to shrink the landbase available for wildlife.
The provincial government has initiated a strategy, Together for Wildlife (T4W), to support and encourage wildlife stewardship and conservation practices. Along with our responsibility to build true and lasting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, evolving societal expectations require a new and dynamic way of managing our wildlife and their habitat. There is a need to be inclusive, adaptive and agile.
The vision of Together for Wildlife is to have wildlife and their habitats thrive, be resilient, and enrich the lives of all British Columbians. Wildlife stewardship is a shared responsibility and requires that everyone’s voice be heard.
In 2020, the Minister of FLNRORD appointed a Minister’s Wildlife Advisory Council (MWAC). Council members came from throughout British Columbia, with almost half Indigenous, and all with experience, knowledge, and a passion for wildlife. Wildsight’s Conservation Director, John Bergenske, is a member of the committee. The MWAC provides the Minister with independent strategic advice on wildlife and habitat stewardship. In fulfilling its role, the MWAC works closely with the First Nations–B.C. Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Forum to ensure progress towards reconciliation and shared decision making with Indigenous Nations in BC.
In the first year of the MWAC’s creation, identified priorities included:
- Supporting progress towards shared decision making and co-management of wildlife with Indigenous peoples
- Seeking a substantial increase in dedicated funding for wildlife and habitat stewardship, in order to meet the needs of BC’s world-class wildlife heritage today and into the future
- Developing a policy and process for setting wildlife and habitat stewardship objectives, backed by legislation capable of ensuring that intended outcomes can be achieved by lessening the risks of direct and cumulative impacts
- Ensuring that wildlife and habitat data are current, open and accessible
MWAC commented on the potential of a new Lands and Natural Resource Operations Ministry, and the message was clear: regardless of the governing structure, we must change the way business is done on the lands and waters of BC. This means a paradigm shift to prioritize ecosystem health over other forms of development, to ensure future generations can continue to enjoy the benefits of healthy wildlife populations and ecosystems.
To review MWAC’s work over the past year, please visit the website.