New Independent Wildlife Group to Take Over BC Government Operations

Kootenay-East MLA Bill Bennett says this is a massive step forward in wildlife management.

Making the announcement Wednesday morning, Bennett says local hunting, conservation, and wildlife groups will establish the framework for a new independent group.

They would essentially be responsible for managing animal populations in BC, which Bennett argues would be able to do the job much more effectively than the government.

"Government is afraid to manage wolves, for example, or afraid to mange grizzly bears in some cases because of the politics of that. Hopefully, an agency that is separate from government can make decisions that are in the best long-term interest of wildlife and just forget about the politics and do what is best for the animals."

More than a dozen local and regional wildlife officials attended Bennett's announcement, which was met with universally-high praise.

"I think it'll put more positive aspect into managing wildlife and getting away from the precautionary principles and get back to real numbers and managing wildlife the way it should be," says Past President of the BC Wildlife Federation Dave White.

White argues that the local wildlife groups simply have a deeper understanding of the local issues affecting animal populations, and therefore know what needs to be done to resolve them.

Few details are known about the makeup of this new group at this time, but Bennett says it will be funded with an initial $5 million from the government, with the $9-10 million from annual hunting license renewals making up the rest.

It will also be open to funds from outside groups that have an interest in wildlife.

"This is a funding model that needs to happen," says East Kootenay Wildlife Association President Jeff Berdusco. "Everybody needs to come to the table for the common goal of increasing wildlife populations across the province, not just in the East Kootenay. This is a necessary first step."

Following May's provincial election, the various local, regional, and provincial wildlife associations will meet to discuss what exactly the group would look like and how it would function.

Bennett hopes to launch the new agency sometime this fall.

- David Opinko

Audio: Bill Bennett, MLA, Kootenay East

Audio: Dave White, Past President, BC Wildlife Federation

Audio: Jeff Berdusco, President, East Kootenay Wildlife Association

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