AUDITOR GENERAL’S REPORT REVEALS GRIZZLY BEAR MANAGEMENT UNDER THE MINISTRY OF FORESTS HAS FAILED

Recently BC’s Auditor General (AG) reported a plethora of problems in the management of BC’s grizzly bears.

(Submitted by the Valhalla Wilderness Society) The report says the problems were caused by a shift of wildlife management responsibilities from the Ministry of Environment (MOE) to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources (FLNRO) that occurred in 2011. According to the Auditor General’s report, “MFLNRO has most of the authority to make decisions that impact grizzly bear populations and habitat, leaving MOE with limited powers to carry out its mandate to manage and protect.”

“This was a gross betrayal of grizzly bears and all BC wildlife”, says VWS biologist Wayne McCrory, a former member of the past government Grizzly Bear Scientific Advisory Committee.  “It is an apparent conflict of interest for FLNRO, which destroys habitat for grizzly bears by maintaining high rates of logging, pushing logging roads into wilderness areas, and degrading fish streams.”

Long before this transfer of power in 2011, the Ministry of Environment began to be stripped of much of its staff and funding. The findings of the Auditor General include a 1995 Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy that has never had a management plan attached to it, and thus, has no definitive procedures for implementation. A strategy for conducting population inventories and monitoring is touted on the internet, but is not used and has no funding.

FLNRO determines the number of grizzly bears that can be killed by hunters each year, yet the audit found a number of problems with the way this is calculated.  The auditors at least expected that MFLNRO would be monitoring and evaluating forest development plans for their impacts on grizzly bears, but it wasn’t doing that either. Grizzly bears tend to disappear from roaded areas due to hunter access and increased human conflicts, as well as poaching. There are 600,000 kilometres of resource roads in the province, expanding by approximately 10,000 km a year, often without the necessary grizzly bear population figures or habitat inventory.

The 2017 audit notes that BC has failed to implement some recommendations of a 2010 audit on biodiversity. The 2010 report stated: “it was apparent that the conservation of biodiversity will become more at risk in the future due to the inadequate connectivity of parks and protected areas.”  According to the recent report: “there has been little effort to address the issue of connectivity for grizzly bears….”

“The worst impact on wildlife was the past government’s almost 20-year failure to create large, fully protected, permanent parks, other than in the Great Bear Rainforest,” says Craig Pettitt, a director of VWS. “In the interior, the Valhalla Wilderness Society’s Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal would protect connectivity corridors between three existing parks. It contains prime grizzly bear habitat, grizzly bear viewing businesses and 29 severely endangered mountain caribou; it has had the benefit of numerous scientific studies, and has minimal resource conflicts.

Reversing the damage done by years of mismanagement of wildlife will require the new government to restore full responsibility for the Ministry of Environment Act and the Wildlife Act to the Ministry of Environment, with sufficient resources to do the job well. Secondly, BC urgently needs a dramatic increase in the percentage of fully protected areas.