People in British Columbia aren’t dumb. When they hear the words “conservation” and “officer” put together, they envision an official with enforcement powers who ensures that things—such as the environment and animals—are conserved.
That, after all, is the logical assumption of what a conservation officer would do. But when you assume, the government makes an ass of U and me.
Before I dive too much into the modern policies and politics of conservation in British Columbia, we need to take a brief stroll to the history section of our local libraries.
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
In 1662, an English writer and gardener by the name of John Evelyn thought that forests were disappearing at an inappropriate rate. He was one of the first people to suggest that the speed at which timber was removed should not exceed the speed at which new trees were planted and matured. In essence, he started what is now recognized as the conservation movement.
A great deal happened between then and the late 19th century. Most of it involved trees, and not much of it happened here. We can skip ahead to Theodore Roosevelt, who would become the 26th president of the United States. Roosevelt, along with his peers, formulated a plan to generate the maximum use of natural resources over time.
Part of Roosevelt’s legacy was the national parks system, something that is still enjoyed by Americans over 100 years later.
But a large part of Roosevelt’s motivation was the long-term use of natural resources—not protecting wild spaces and animals for the sake of the wild spaces and animals.
And we’re back
That mentality of looking to wildlife, green spaces, and the environment as a resource to be coveted is really what has landed us, as a province and nation, where are right now. Conservation officers do not exist to conserve or protect our wild neighbours or beatific wild spaces; they exist to control the wildlife and spaces so they can be used for economic gain by the province.
Of course, there is some science involved in the policies that govern provincial conservation efforts. It’d be a bad thing for our environment if we lost our fresh water resources; but we can still sell off huge volumes to giant corporations. We need grizzly bears in the ecosystem; but it’s alright to sell the right to shoot them to Americans so long as the bare minimum are kept alive.
Starting to get the picture?
Modern conservation in British Columbia is not about the environment. It is not about the animals. It is about the economy. It’s about how much money the government can squeeze out of the things that we hold dear.
If it were truly about conservation—that is, protecting and actually conserving wild animals and wild spaces—then stories like that of conservation officer Bryce Casavant would not have happened. But choosing to protect two innocent bear cubs instead of following orders and killing them, apparently, isn’t in line with how the government views conservation.
But it is in line with how most British Columbians view conservation. Most of us believe that wild animals deserve to be wild. We believe that sometimes we need to do a bit of work to make sure our wild neighbours stay safe while they pass through our communities. We believe that it’s up to us to protect our environment and conserve it for the future.
For some reason, our political leaders don’t agree with us. And that’s the beauty of a democracy. We have the right to get rid of them if they don’t do what they promised, or ignore what the majority want.
We’ve started a petition demanding that our ministries of natural resources and environment begin funding the front-line workers in wildlife and environmental protection, investing in scientific studies and committees, and incorporating the non-lethal solutions that we know will work.
We ask that you sign this petition, as well as write, tweet at, or call your local member of the legislative assembly. We ask that you talk with friends and neighbours, write letters to the editor, and share these kinds of stories. And we ask that you exercise your right to speak on behalf of the animals and our environment come the next opportunity at the polls.
Because if this government won’t have the conservation conversation, we’ll just have to let it go extinct.