(1) 250.472.8528
andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

Address to the BC Wildlife Federation AGM & Convention in Kamloops

Yesterday I had the distinct honour of addressing delegates at the British Columbia Wildlife Federation (BCWF) Annual General Meeting & Convention in Kamloops. Below I reproduce the text of my speech.

Prior to my speech, I offered a brief explanation of what motivated me to get into politics. I then spent a few minutes discussing our Confidence and Supply Agreement with the BC NDP and our role as an opposition party.


Text of Speech


At the time of European contact, wildlife were so abundant in British Columbia that early explorers marveled at the richness of the land.

But, by the late 1800’s wildlife losses were so widespread, the public began demanding an end to the free-for-all.

In 1859 the first ordinances “providing for the protection of game” were passed in B.C.

In 1905 the government organized wildlife management, establishing the Department for the Protection of Game and Forests, although it didn’t get funding until 1908.

The annual budget: $10,000.

In 1933 Aldo Leopold, an American conservationist and writer, published Game Management, a book that has been credited with creating the discipline of wildlife management through the application of scientific principles. Indeed, his work planted the seeds of what would eventually become the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

One of the key tenets of the model, which is now widely applied across the continent, is that science – not the dictates of special interest groups – should guide wildlife policy.

I have dedicated my carreer to understanding our world and its problems through science and have been surprised at how difficult it is to convince governments to consistently follow scientific reasoning. While the concept of science-based wildlife management has generally been endorsed in B.C. it has not always been applied.

There have been some successes. But its selective use has led to more disasters.

Many wildlife populations are in jeopardy today. Mountain caribou are facing extirpation, wild salmon – a foundation species – are in shocking decline, spotted owls are virtually extinct, and moose populations, which many families rely on for sustenance, are in trouble across the province.

What we find in almost all of these instances is that there has been inadequate science, particularly concerning cumulative impacts, and that an unacceptable loss of vital habitat has occurred.

The management of wildlife, and the application, or not, of scientific principles, continues to stir great controversy and emotional debate in B.C. Understandably so.

Wildlife management conflicts in which species are pitted against one another are truly challenging, but I have always maintained that humans – elected representatives in particular – have a moral obligation to prevent endangered species from going extinct.

Often, extreme situations are created because government has failed to act. They are typically situations that – for a variety of industrial, social, or budgeting excuses – have been allowed to escalate far past a point of simpler intervention.

When you start rationalizing culling one species to protect another you also introduce an ethical element that needs to be considered alongside scientific findings. Let one – or both – of those species become threatened or endangered and your situation becomes immensely worse.

Some say that humans should not interfere with nature, but sadly, intervention is sometimes necessary. Simply put, many ecosystems have been altered so drastically that we can no longer just stand by and let nature take its course.

If we don’t continue to intervene with the mountain caribou crisis we are currently facing, for example, it will not be long before the remaining herds in the South Selkirk and Peace regions are extirpated.

Predator control, hunting closures, and restrictions that stop industries from undertaking resource developments are all difficult matters for governments to deal with.

But things aren’t going to get easier. The management of wildlife is becoming increasingly complex and fraught with risk.

Habitat loss is mounting.

The human population is growing.

Roads and pipelines have been spreading into the farthest reaches of the province, and researchers have discovered how such developments increase predation, shift wildlife distribution, and impact abundance.

Wolves, as many of you know, use road and pipeline clearings to get a good line of sight on caribou, expanding into new territory to more efficiently track down their prey.

Increased road densities and human activity in wilderness areas elevates human-caused mortality of grizzly bears and reduces the number of bears in the area, scientists at the University of Alberta have recently found.

I believe some of those scientists are here today – thank you for your work!

In a paper recently published in the journal Conservation Biology, scientists wrote about threats to biodiversity from cumulative human impacts in B.C., “one of North America’s last wildlife frontiers.”

“Land-use change is the largest proximate threat to biodiversity yet remains one of the most complex to manage,” they wrote.

“For ecosystems, we found that bunchgrass, coastal Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine have been subjected to over 50% land-use conversion, and over 85% of their spatial extent has undergone either direct or estimated indirect impacts.”

Adding to all these other stressors now is climate change. The full implications aren’t yet clear, but we cannot situate our wildlife strategies in the past. Our environment is changing and will continue to do so.

Government must be prudent and precautionary as we manage our changing landscape as the planet warms. The timing and abundance of food availability, for instance, will shift for some plants and animals. Species reliant on their stability will need space and additional resources if they are to adapt.

In many respects, Northern BC, the Interior, and the people who live off those lands are on the frontier of climate change. You will be the first to feel the effects of climate change.

You are the ones fighting forest fires and flooding.

You are the boots on the ground when government is slow to act.

A few years ago, with concerns growing about how B.C. was managing wildlife in the face of growing pressures, the Liberal B.C. government assigned an MLA to do a comprehensive review of its policies.

“There has never been a time in British Columbia’s history where balancing the cumulative impact of resource development and biodiversity has been so complex.” Liberal MLA Mike Morris wrote in his 2015 report, Getting the Balance Right: Improving Wildlife Habitat Management in British Columbia.

“There is an urgency and heightened concern amongst resident hunters, guide outfitters, trappers, the wildlife viewing industry and conservationists that the province is not acting quickly enough to address the decrease in wildlife populations and the degradation of wildlife habitat,” Morris wrote.

He called for more wildlife management staff and “better planning, better science and more timely and effective implementation of policies and programs.”

But the government never delivered.

“B.C. balks at changing law to protect wildlife and biodiversity” said The Vancouver Sun headline at the time.

“The B.C. government will not be changing laws or considering hiring more staff as recommended in a report by one of its own MLAs on how to protect wildlife and biodiversity from the effects of resource industries,” the story said.

For far too long government has shortchanged wildlife management in B.C.

It’s fine for Ministers to say they support science-based decisions – but where is the science? Where are the field researchers? Where are the basic boots on the ground that are needed to keep a close watch on our wildlife populations and habitat? I’d say many of them are in this room.

The necessary funding just isn’t there.

B.C. ranks behind its neighbours in the northwest when it comes to investment in wildlife management. Alberta, Washington, Montana, Oregon, Idaho, Utah – all spend more on managing less.

The shameful underfunding of wildlife management has taken place under successive Liberal regimes. Now we have a new NDP government, but it has yet to show if it will embrace – and fund – science-based management.

So far, things aren’t looking great. Recently, as you are all keenly aware, the government has struggled with its policy on grizzly hunting. The BC NDP campaigned on “banning the grizzly bear trophy hunt” without defining what that is or was. They came up with an initial cockamany idea of requiring people to surrender the head and coat and pack out the meat. Then they decided to ban all grizzly hunting.

I stood alone in the legislature for three years trying to get emotion out of the discussion of wildlife management but the Liberals and NDP wouldn’t budge from their divisive positions.

There is no doubt that the decision to ban the hunt was purely populist and was not informed by science. Unfortunately, by ignoring public opinion for so long, pent up opposition became overwhelming and rational discussion was thrown under the bus.

Government let that discord fester for so long – often putting people in this room in a challenging position, I would imagine – that it was really hard to find an appropriate balance between science and representing the views of people in my riding.

I am really worried that this populist approach to wildlife management will continue. I don’t think it serves anyone.

Not the people in this room, certainly, but I don’t think it serves the people advocating for it either, because it rarely helps protect animals in the long term.

To be blunt, I am willing to go out on a limb and suggest that the number of grizzlies that are shot on an annual basis will barely remain unchanged (after an initial short term drop). Conservation officer grizzly mortalities will go up as these officers deal with problem bears (as in the US); poaching will go up too.

B.C. is Canada’s most ecologically diverse province but if we are to maintain that rich biodiversity, we need to see a serious commitment to science-based, evidence-based wildlife management – and we need to have dedicated wildlife funding put in place, so managers have the budgets, and the staff, required to do the job.

As the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services recommended in its Report on the Budget 2017 Consultations, license fees collected from natural resource users (hunters, anglers, ecotourists, etc.) should be directed into conservation and wildlife management services, rehabilitation, enforcement and education.

Effective natural resource management is reliant on funding, science, and social support. We seem to have consensus on this within the B.C. government, but it needs to be put into action.

Prior to the election, I campaigned on establishing a Natural Resource Commissioner who could lead a Natural Resources Board responsible for establishing sustainable harvest and extraction levels and reporting on the state of B.C.’s environment and natural assets. The NRB, I proposed, would conduct cumulative impact assessments, and oversee the application of the professional reliance model.

Since the election, the government has been working with us to improve the professional reliance model and B.C.’s environmental assessment process.

There is much we can do to advance the values of scientific monitoring, reporting, and cumulative assessment.

Managing wildlife has always been difficult, but never more so than now, in the face of climate change. According to data released by scientists at NASA, 2017 was the second warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880, second only to 2016. And Arctic sea ice is at record lows.

In the face of great challenges, it is clear to me that we need a comprehensive science- and ecosystem-based approach to wildlife management. We simply cannot continue to perpetuate the slow, methodical extirpation of native species in B.C.

Ecosystem-based management calls for natural resources, habitat, and species to be managed collectively, over a long time frame, rather than just looking at a single sector or single species.

Cumulative impacts are assessed – an approach which B.C. urgently must follow because of the sweep of industrial development now taking place in many sectors of the province.

Given the myriad challenges facing wildlife in our province, two of the most important things we can do to protect biodiversity is to leave key habitat areas intact and restore and improve funding to conservation, monitoring and scientific management efforts.

As British Columbia continues to warm and precipitation patterns continue to change,

as flooding and drought becomes more frequent and extreme,

as out of control wildfires become more common and more damaging,

as pest infestations become more diverse

and as between 20 and 30% of the world’s plants and animals becoming at risk of extinction by mid century,

we have a responsibility to take steps now.

It won’t be easy. But proactively protecting ecosystems to improve resiliency and adaptive capacity to the changes a warming climate will bring is vital.

And the continued good work of the BCWF will play a critical role in these conservation efforts.

Thank you.

 

Reintroducing Right to Roam Legislation in British Columbia

Today in the legislature I reintroduced the Right to Roam Act, a private members bill that I first introduced on February 27, 2017.

This bill was drafted in response to a number of conflicts in which people trying to hike or walk to rivers and lakes in the backcountry were met with new fences, gates, and threatened with arrest. When leased crown land or uncultivated private lands are blocking British Columbian’s ability to reach public lands and waterways, what are their rights in accessing those spaces?

The bill is a combination of B.C.’s existing Hunting and Fishing Heritage Act and Nova Scotia’s Angling Act and seeks to protect and clarify British Columbian’s right to access to crown and cross uncultivated wild lands. It does not increase access for any motorized vehicles, as this would be pose a significant risk to the landscape, wildlife populations, and historic First Nations sites. It does not amend any wildlife legislation or hunting regulations, nor does it limit the rights of property owners.

After its initial introduction, my office has received an endless stream of emails and phone calls from British Columbians who are struggling with this issue in their communities.

It’s clear that this right to access wilderness, especially on leased Crown land, is a debate that we need to have in British Columbia and that is precisely the reason why I felt it was important to reintroduce the bill. While I recognize that the government will unlikely call this bill for second reading, and while I also recognize that there are important amendments that would make it more effective, it’s critical that we keep this issue in the public realm.

I encourage all readers to contact their local MLA to emphasize the importance of bringing Right to Roam legislation to British Columbia.

Below I reproduce the video and text of the Bill’s introduction as well as the accompanying media release.


Video of Introduction



Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Right to Roam Act, 2017 of which notice has been given in my name on the order paper be introduced and now read a first time.

The ability to access and experience nature is a right for all British Columbians, and we must protect it. Spending time outside is vital to our well-being, as well as the protection of our environment. The more time people spend in their local ecosystem, the more they will care about protecting it.

Increasingly, however, British Columbians are finding themselves fenced out of wild areas that have been enjoyed by the public for generations. Fences, gates and signs are blocking people from accessing Crown land.

Since the introduction of this bill for the first time last year, my office has literally received an endless stream of hundreds upon hundreds of emails and phone calls from British Columbians who are struggling with this issue in their communities.

It’s clear that this right to access wilderness, especially on leased Crown land, is a debate that we need to have in British Columbia.

At the recent UBCM conference, I also had delegations come to meet with me on this very topic, as well as local organizations and First Nations across British Columbia. It’s a pressing issue that’s effecting British Columbians from north to south to east to west.

This bill, which is built on a combination of B.C.’s existing Hunting and Fishing Heritage Act and Nova Scotia’s Angling Act would re-establish the rights of British Columbians to access public lands, rivers, streams and lakes and to use these spaces to fish, hike and enjoy outdoor recreation in accordance with the law.

Mr. Speaker: You have heard the question.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M209, Right to Roam Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Media Release


Weaver re-introduces bill to increase British Columbian’s access to nature
For immediate release
November 8, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, introduced a Private Member’s Bill that would increase the ability of British Columbians to access public lands. Weaver first introduced the bill, the Right to Roam Act, 2017, in February 2017 under the previous B.C. Liberal government.

“The ability to access and experience nature is a right for all British Columbians, and we must protect it,” said Weaver.

“Spending time outside is vital to our wellbeing, as well as the protection of our environment. The more time people spend in their local ecosystem, the more they will care about protecting it.
“Increasingly, however, British Columbians are finding themselves fenced out of wild areas that have been enjoyed by the public for generations. Fences, gates and signs are blocking people from accessing crown land.

“Since the introduction of this bill for the first time last year, my office has received an endless stream of emails and phone calls from British Columbians who are struggling with this issue in their communities. It is clear that the right to access wilderness, especially on leased crown land, is a debate we need to have in B.C.”

This Bill, which is built on a combination of B.C.’s existing Hunting and Fishing Heritage Act and Nova Scotia’s Angling Act, would re-establish the rights of British Columbians to access public lands, rivers, streams, and lakes, and to use these spaces to fish, hike and enjoy outdoor recreation in accordance with the law.”

-30-

Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

Political stunts and political spin — the confusing tale of the government’s inept grizzly bear policy

Today the BC NDP claimed to set the stage for banning trophy hunting of grizzly bears in British Columbia. In what can only be described as a political stunt, the BC NDP announced that “effective Nov. 30, 2017, the British Columbia government will end grizzly bear trophy hunting throughout the province.” They further proclaimed “while the trophy hunt will end, hunting for meat will be allowed to continue.”

In response to their announcement I issued a statement, reproduced below.

As you will see, I am very supportive of the fact that  the B.C. NDP are respecting the wishes of the Coastal First Nations by placing a moratorium on the hunting of grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest. Readers of this website will know that I called for this back in February, 2014 (3 1/2 years ago). However, during the election campaign I pointed out that the B.C. NDP appeared to be trying to have their cake and eat it too when it came to the grizzly hunt. They told the hunting community one thing and the environmental community another.

Today’s announcement will not end grizzly bear hunting in B.C., as many environmental groups have advocated for.

In addition, this announcement will create a system in which not all of the animal will be harvested – resident hunters will no longer be allowed to possess the hair, head and hide of grizzlies. This will be viewed as wasteful by the resident hunting community.

Foreign hunters will still be able to shoot grizzlies in British Columbia, take a picture of themselves standing over the dead beast, and head back home without harvesting any of the animal.

What’s remarkable is that when I introduced legislation in the Spring of 2017 targeted at foreign trophy hunters the BC NDP did not support it. Now, they introduce a mishmash approach that makes little sense.

I’m not sure how this will appease the concerns of anyone. It appears to me that the NDP were trying to play to environmental voters in the election campaign without thinking through their policies. What we really need in BC is science-based approach to wildlife management, not a populist approach to species management.


Media Release


Weaver statement on government’s intention to end the grizzly bear trophy hunt
For immediate release
August 14, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green caucus, responded to today’s news regarding grizzly bear hunting in British Columbia. Weaver has long advocated for action on this issue.

“I am encouraged that the B.C. NDP are respecting the wishes of the Coastal First Nations by placing a moratorium on the hunting of grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest,” says Weaver.

Weaver further cautions “During the election campaign I pointed out that the B.C. NDP appeared to be trying to have their cake and eat it too when it came to the grizzly hunt. They told the hunting community one thing and the environmental community another.”

Today’s announcement will not end grizzly bear hunting in B.C., as many environmental groups have advocated for.

In addition, this announcement will create a system in which not all of the animal will be harvested – resident hunters will no longer be allowed to possess the hair, head and hide of grizzlies. This will be viewed as wasteful by the resident hunting community.

In addition, foreign hunters will still be able to shoot grizzlies in British Columbia, take a picture of themselves standing over the dead beast, and head back home without harvesting any of the animal.

Weaver adds “I’m not sure how this will appease the concerns of anyone. It appears to me that the NDP were trying to play to environmental voters in the election campaign without thinking through their policies.

“What we really need in BC is science-based approach to wildlife management, not a populist approach to species management.

“B.C. is one of the last strongholds of grizzlies in North America. There are a range of issues that affect the health of grizzly bear populations. These include the effects of climate change on essential salmon and huckleberry stocks, as well as road kill rates and poaching incidents. We must focus on broader wildlife preservation if we are serious about conservation and the protection of grizzlies and other species in this province.

“B.C. and Alberta are the only provinces without Endangered Species legislation. I will work with the government to ensure the introduction of species at risk legislation is advanced in the near future,” says Weaver.

-30-

Media contact

Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597
jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

Thank you Gwen Barlee for your service to our province

Claire Hume and I are very saddened to hear of Gwen Barlee’s passing. Gwen worked closely with us to help us draft an endangered species act during the spring, 2017 legislative sitting. We had no idea and she gave no indication that she was ill. Gwen was incredibly generous with her time and knowledge, patient and kind with her explanations, and tireless in her resolve to protect endangered species. We are so grateful. Thank you, Gwen, for your service to our province. We will think of you in the wilds of British Columbia and work towards the reintroduction of our Endangered Species Act in the near future.

Standing up for Resident Hunters over Foreign Trophy Hunters

Today in the legislature I introduced Bill M234 — Wildlife Amendment Act, 2017.

This bill combined two previous bills that I had introduced in the legislature. The BC Liberals did not wish to bring either of these to second reading. The first Bill was to designed to reduce the preferential treatment of non-resident hunters by eliminating the minister’s discretion to make separate rules for resident and foreign hunters when it comes to obtaining LEH permits. This bill requires all hunters to enter a lottery for their LEH tags, as is done in other jurisdictions.

The second Bill I had already introduced was designed to ensure that all edible portions of animals hunted in British Columbia are taken to the hunter’s domicile. In addition, the proposed changes remove grizzly bears from the list of animals exempt from meat harvesting regulations. These put in place a major logistical barrier to foreign trophy hunting.

Two new additions were included in the updated bill. I am grateful to the feedback I received on my earlier bills that led to these modifications. First, if passed this bill would require that edible portions be packed out prior to, or in conjuction with, any other body parts of the game carcass. This is consistent with the notion is that hunting is primarily for food and the the trophy should be viewed as a by-catch.

The second addition would disallow those convicted of fisheries or wildlife offences from becoming fishing or hunting guides in the province of British Columbia.

Below I reproduce the text and video on my introduction along with the accompanying press release .


Text of the Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled Wildlife Amendment Act, 2017, of which notice has been given in my name on the order paper, be read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to introduce this bill that, if enacted, would make a number of changes to the Wildlife Act.

This bill restricts the practices of non-resident trophy hunters who come to B.C. to kill large game by making three specific amendments to the Wildlife Act. The proposed changes remove grizzly bears from the list of animals exempt from meat harvesting regulations, ensures all edible portions of animals killed in B.C. are taken directly to a hunter’s residence, and requires the meat to be taken out first, before the hide or head.

This bill also stops government from letting non-resident hunters buy preferential access to limited-entry hunting permits and bans people convicted of fisheries or wildlife offences from becoming fishing or hunting guides in the province of British Columbia.

For local sustenance hunters, the vast majority of hunters in B.C. that is, this bill merely echoes what they are already doing — harvesting wild game to bring the meat home to feed their families. For non-resident trophy hunters coming to B.C. to hunt an animal only for its hide, skull or antler, this bill puts in place a significant logistical challenge.

Bill M234, Wildlife Amendment Act, 2017, introduced and read a first time.

A. Weaver: At this time, I move, pursuant to standing order 78a, that this bill be referred to the Select Standing Committee on Parliamentary Reform, Ethical Conduct, Standing Orders and Private Bills for immediate review.

Madame Speaker: I will point out that that’s a departure in practice.

All those in favour? Nay is heard. Division has been called.

A. Weaver: May I have this referred to second reading — a motion to do so?

Bill M234, Wildlife Amendment Act, ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of the Introduction



Media Release


Weaver tables Wildlife Amendment Act to Committee Stage – Liberals vote Nay
For immediate release
March 6th, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – Today in the legislature MLA Andrew Weaver tabled the Wildlife Amendment Act directly to committee stage, leading to an immediate vote in the House. Weaver and the B.C. NDP voted in favour of moving the bill directly to committee stage for review. The B.C. Liberals voted against it.

“This bill works to ensure that sustainable, respectful sustenance hunting in British Columbia is grounded in a science-based conservation policy and that the interests of residents hunters are put ahead of foreign trophy hunters.

“It is clear these are values the B.C. Liberals do not share – as illustrated by their vote against further consulting on this bill today. But, I am glad to see that the B.C. NDP support my initiatives on this file,” says Weaver.

The bill would restrict the practices of non-resident trophy hunters who come to B.C. to hunt large game by making three specific amendments to the Wildlife Act. The proposed changes remove grizzly bears from the list of animals exempt from meat harvesting regulations, ensures all edible portions of animals killed in B.C. are taken directly to the hunter’s residence, and requires the meat to be taken out first – before the hide or head. For non-resident trophy hunters coming to B.C. to hunt an animal solely for its hide, skull, or antlers this puts in place a prohibitive logistical challenge.

The bill also stops the government from letting non-resident hunters buy preferential access to limited-entry-hunt permits. And lastly, it bans people convicted of fisheries or wildlife offenses in B.C. and other jurisdictions from becoming fishing or hunting guides.

– 30 –

Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca