Lesley Fox: It’s time to have the conservation conversation in B.C.
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.
Jul 9, 2015 at 5:50pm
Thank you for your pointed yet eloquent article, bringing much needed attention to this issue. It's truly a shame that the public is being 'duped' by the government once again. Thank you for starting the petition so we can have a unified voice.
Jul 9, 2015 at 8:22pm
Very well written article. As an American, I can tell you we have similar issues here regarding wildlife, where the people want compassion, and the government, euthanasia. The truth is, we are in these animals' homes, not the other way around. And I cannot bear (no pun intended, honestly) the thought of a future without these animals-any wild animals-in it. Each one lost is a treasure squandered, never to return. It's time humans began to care for their earth and all things living on it, if we really wish to have a future worth living to see...
Jul 9, 2015 at 10:28pm
Where do you think the money goes when we, "sell the right to shoot them to Americans"? Towards habitat enhancement, restoration and conservation. Hunting generates $350 million annually in BC. Of course you would use a single incident by an officer to take a jab at hunters. Get it straight, Georgia Straight.
Jul 10, 2015 at 10:33am
The responsible and sustainable USE of nature is not an industry or government plot, as Ms Fox suggests; it is a central principle of modern environmental conservation as promoted by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the World Wildlife Fund and other science-based authorities. This principle was first elaborated by the World Commission on Environment and Development.
Jul 10, 2015 at 11:23am
Oh God, clicked on the petition link and see that this rant is not about Conservation, Conservation is a pretext to further the agenda of the Fur Bearer Defenders group. I have seen the FBD campaigns, they are misleading and I don't like being taken for an ass. Not more from an animal rights group than from the government.
Jul 10, 2015 at 11:29am
Lesley you got part of it right but please do remember that the definition of conversation is the wise use of a resource. You may have an issue with some of the policy and practices of B.C.'s Conservation efforts but don't ever forget conservation is use of the resource. To believe that we can continue ahead in this world with strict preservation is ludicrous. In fact I have just as much issue with many of our government jurisdictions in that we do not use many of our natural resources available to us now. But we will. As we continue to "grow our populations" we will be using more and more of our natural resources so let's start to do it wisely starting now. Yes, Lesley that will mean harvesting more and more of our wild animals within the bounds of keeping their populations sustainable, not like the overabundance many of our species populations are right now.
I look forward to the time when we as a people will truly appreciate the harvest of our natural resources as our forefathers did before us. We have quite a ways to go on that front but necessity is the mother of invention. Innovative ways to feed, cloth and shelter ourselves. We do need to practice conservation now!
Jul 10, 2015 at 6:42pm
What a riot - Alan Herscovici, the VP of the Fur Council of Canada, talking about "responsible and sustainable USE of nature" - this, from the guy who's paid to promote fur, which is perhaps one of the most unnecessary commodities on the planet. Sign me up for more of this advice!
Jul 11, 2015 at 1:15pm
I'd like to know where Lesley Fox obtained the photo for this article. It's one of mine and no one ever contacted me for its use. Not even a photo credit. I'm not impressed.
Jul 11, 2015 at 2:15pm
It is posted on flickr by the Province of British Columbia, as per the photo credit displayed above. Click on the link to see.
Jul 11, 2015 at 3:41pm
Yeah, I did follow that link Martin. It seems I have some investigating to do. Five other images of mine are also on that flickr page.