VICTORIA – For the first time in 25 years, British Columbia is rewriting the Wildlife Act. However, according to submissions recently filed by a coalition of the Province’s leading conservation groups, the government’s proposed legislative changes fail to provide adequate protection for BC’s wildlife.
ELC Clinic student Martin Montes teamed up with Devon Page of Sierra Legal Defence Fund to provide legal work on the environmental community’s response to government’s proposed law reform measures. The submissions were filed on behalf of a broad environmental coalition, including Raincoast Conservation Society, Wilderness Committee, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Sierra Legal Defence Fund, David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics, Wildsight, and Sierra Club of Canada – BC Chapter.
The most fundamental problem with the government’s proposal is that it fails to provide for adequate public consultation on this critical issue. Government intends to simply rely on the internet for public consultation and does not provide for any public hearings. By relying solely on the internet for consultation, a large segment of British Columbians will be ignored and there will be no opportunity for public discussion, questioning of civil servants, and debate on the issue. In essence, citizens are simply asked to make email submissions to a government “Black Box,” which will then deliver the new statute.
The coalition’s submissions also point out that Government’s Wildlife Act proposals fall short by:
- failing to protect endangered species habitat,
- failing to integrate and modernize outdated and contradictory wildlife laws;
- perpetuating an ineffective regulatory regime that places wildlife protection below industrial and economic priorities
- providing insufficient conservation personnel to manage wildlife
- failing to provide scientifically defensible management of the grizzly bear hunt;
- ignoring the effects of global warming;
- doubling the number of hunters to 20,000 by allowing hunters into the woods before they have taken gun safety courses and by extending the age range for junior hunting licences to include 10 to 18 year olds.
Impacts on grizzly bears are of particular concern to ELC client, Raincoast Conservation Society. Raincoast has criticized the new proposals aimed at increasing hunting as irresponsible in light of mounting evidence that the grizzly population in BC is in decline. Already, 340 grizzlies are killed each year.
ELC Student Martin Montes worked on the Wildlife Act submissions
“The potential impact of the proposed hunting management policies on unknown or unstable populations, such as BC’s fragile grizzly bear population, reflects poorly on the province’s commitment to conserve biodiversity,” says Raincoast’s Chris Genovali.
Conservation groups are not the only ones concerned. The BC Government Employees Union signed on to support the environmental coalition’s submissions. President of BCGEU George Heyman says, “BC’s wildlife is suffering because of massive staffing cuts and the contracting out of wildlife management.”
Devon Page, staff lawyer for Sierra Legal says, “In the face of rapidly increasing species extinction and the looming effects of climate change, strong laws are needed to protect our wildlife. We need meaningful consultation via public hearings on this issue to give us those strong laws.”
For further information, please contact: Chris Genovali, Raincoast Conservation Society (250) 655-1229
Calvin Sandborn, Environmental Law Clinic (250) 472-5248