The province is following its fisheries lead and plowing all revenue raised from hunting licences in B.C. back into wildlife management.
On Wednesday, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson announced the move, saying a new agency will be created to administer the money. The move will be modelled on what was done with fishing licences a few years ago.
He said based on input from stakeholders over the last few years, the government will form a new agency in fall 2017 with startup funds of $5 million. The agency subsequently would be supported by hunting licence revenues of $9 million to $10 million each year.
Currently, hunting licence revenues support a number of government activities. Hunting licence surcharges totalling more than $2.6 million annually would still be dedicated to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation for its conservation projects.
To determine the governance model and investment priorities for the new agency, government has budgeted $200,000 to support a process to engage with key wildlife stakeholder groups, First Nations and the public later this spring.
“The B.C. Wildlife Federation commends the province for its commitment to dedicate hunting licence revenues to a stand-alone agency to enhance wildlife management,” said Jim Glaicar, president, B.C. Wildlife Federation following the announcement in Kelowna.
“The BCWF, on behalf of our 50,000 members, is pleased to have our call for greater investment in fish, wildlife and habitat realized through this investment.”
Also on hand was Scott Ellis, executive director, Guide Outfitters Association of B.C.
He said his group was also happy to see the government’s move.
“The Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia is excited about the government’s commitment to increase funding for wildlife,” said Ellis.
” We support initiatives to enhance and grow healthy wildlife populations in British Columbia.”
Both said the move is a good one for all British Columbians as everyone wants to see wildlife thrive in this province, whether you lives in urban or rural areas of B.C.
Thomson said the aim is to have the new agency up and running by the fall.
The shift toward a stand-alone agency builds on previous accomplishments in enhancing wildlife management, including: finalizing the wildlife allocation policy; implementing a moose enhancement strategy; bringing in an e-licensing system; and increasing First Nations’ participation in wildlife management. The collaborative process used to produce the 2016 moose enhancement strategy also identified how B.C.’s wildlife management framework could be modernized.
Wildlife populations are managed on the principle of “conservation first.” Currently, the ministry spends over $18 million per year on wildlife management activities.
B.C. is home to more than 1,138 species of vertebrates, including 488 bird species, 142 mammal species, 18 reptile species, 22 amphibian species, 83 freshwater fish species and 368 saltwater fish species.
There are more than 100,000 registered hunters in the province. It is estimated that hunting activities (including those of resident hunters and guide outfitters) contribute $350 million each year to B.C.’s economy.