There was a meeting April 10 in Vancouver organized by the Fraser Basin Council on behalf of the Province to oversee a stakeholder engagement process to discuss species at risk legislation, wildlife habitat conservation and caribou recovery.
There are legions of information indicting the current management of all three subjects. To the hunting fraternity species at risk and habitat conservation connect with the grassland ecosystem and ungulate winter ranges.
The province of BC advertises the grassland ecosystem as the most threatened, less than 1% of the province’s land base and home to most of the provinces endangered and threatened species-red and blue listed.
If the past is prologue to the future then species at risk legislation is dead on arrival for the very large reason that meaningful legislation will mandate a dramatic change in agriculture practices.
My contribution to the species at risk and wildlife habitat conservation debate centers on the messages from voices who give us a glimmer of hope that the NDP Government will be successful and support the public interest where the preponderance of the evidence supports change to current policy.
A report titled Developing a Coordinated Approach to Grassland Species at Risk Recovery in British Columbia Workshop Summary June 6-7 2006 states grasslands in British Columbia hold a vast number of species at risk: 30% of federally listed endangered species in British Columbia occupy grasslands for some or all of their life cycle, wile 137 animals and numerous plant associations are also grassland dependant.
The buzz words in the report under Executive Summary on page two states “Focus on implementation not planning”.
A blunt assessment of past history but hardly surprising when the author of the report is FORREX a partnership committed to “Supporting Sustainable Natural Resource Management Decisions”.
Don Gayton, a well known and respected grassland voice was part of the FORREX team and his Review of the Gilpin Grasslands March 2003 cuts to the chase with his blunt assessment that “the Gilpin has a long history of poor management and I do not expect this to change soon”.
Don’s Conclusion and Recommendations in his Review of the Gilpin Grasslands were totally ignored by the BC Liberal Government which was hardly surprising when you remember the Executive Director of the BC Cattlemen’s Association; David Borth was hired in 2005 to oversee the provincial range bureaucracy.
There are more sound bytes to the story which validates David’s proclamation during a July 2007 field trip on the Gilpin Grasslands; we will never change”. Garbage in garbage out!
In a private conversation I asked Don what it would take to improve the Gilpin grassland ecosystem. His answer;”a lighter footprint of the cow would see a dramatic change in 25 years”
Don Gayton’s vision of range management was polar opposite to the dismal performance of former provincial government agrologists; Jim Maxwell, Jack King and Carl Withler.
If we dare to believe NDP Minister of the Environment, George Heyman’s mandate letter is prologue to the future; enact an endangered species law and harmonize other laws to ensure they are all working towards the goal of protecting our beautiful province then lets hope that the current NDP Government will move forward and embrace a News Release message dated November 6, 1995
Cranbrook- a new committee to lead the implementation of a Grazing Enhancement Fund as part of the Kootenay-Boundary Land Use Plan was announced to-day by Kootenay MLA and Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Ann Edwards on behalf of Agriculture Minister David Zirnhelt.
Under the co-chairmanship of ranchers, Bill Coy and Blaine Coates the group will direct implementation of the new five year $3.75 million Grazing Enhancement Fund to assist the region’s ranching industry. The fund will enable cattle grazing and forage production on public grazing lands in a manner which meets the conservation and environmental objective outlined in the land use plan.
The Grazing Enhancement News Release was a creation of the Mike Harcourt NDP Government that like the Forest Practices Code died quick and hard under the leadership of the 1996 Glen Clark NDP Government.
I served on that committee, attending winter meetings at Creston because the initial Terms of Reference stated/implied that a primary objective of the Grazing Enhancement Committee was the removal of cows in Parks by finding and creating new food sources.
The tenure of the Grazing Enhancement Committee was reduced to two years and the funding dramatically reduced to $350,000 and consequently conservation and environmental objectives highlighted in the many reports given to participants of the West Kootenay/Boundary Commission on Resources and Environment Roundtable were never discussed.
The conservation and environmental objectives were a non-starter a generation ago and with the dramatic decline in small ranches its time to take counsel from former NDP Minister of Agriculture David Zirnfelt’s 1995 message, “Government is delivering more control over land use planning to local citizens in the Kootenays”
The agriculture sector in our province has a long history of holding the trump card that has resulted in third rate management of sensitive, important areas to wildlife including species at risk.
How does this accurate indictment of the agriculture sector square up with the NDP/Green Part coalition government? Who are the players past and present that give us hope that the past will not be prologue to the future?
Two polar opposite positions on ungulate winter range management by retired provincial government range managers; Jim White and Jack King gives us a message to support and one to totally discount!
Cattle-Wildlife Interactions Jim White (no date)
“If cattle are allowed to concentrate for any length of time in the fall in areas that are critical for deer winter use the stage is set for severe conflict. They may browse off significant amounts of Saskatoon, willow, current, snowbrush, red osier, dogwood and rose-species important for deer winter use.
There is the problem, now what is the solution? The first and obvious one is to simply not allow cattle use of deer winter ranges. This is done wherever possible.”
“In many cases prohibiting use is not feasible but severely limiting use is”.
J.G.King Regional Range Officer to W.E.Brash District Manager Boundary Forest District Dec. 17, 1981
“Considerable feed and labor savings are realized by this procedure of grazing these cows on the grasslands for the period of September 16-December 31 or when snow becomes too deep to allow grazing. They do not harm the range at all and actually benefit the deer by conditioning the grass plants for spring use by deer”.
Will the NDP/Green Party Coalition embrace Jim White’s message? Jim has a strong relationship with David Zirnhelt, a former NDP Minister of Agriculture. David and Jim were past prominent players in the Grassland Council of BC, a point made in newsletters.
Corky Evans, a former NDP Minister of Agriculture from Nelson was connected to the Grazing Enhancement Fund Kootenay/Boundary Land Use Plan in which important program objectives included: to improve management of riparian areas and to maintain and enhance biodiversity and long term fish and wildlife productivity on crown range land.
Lana Popham, the current NDP Minister of Agriculture has gravel in her gut and hasn’t been shy in criticizing fish farms. Her quote in A Matter of Confidence the inside story of the political battle for BC is blunt and colorful.
Lana was criticized for her activism as a Minister of Agriculture. “It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be” she told the Times columnists, Amy Smart.”I was used to lighting my hair on fire and then all of a sudden I was in the line of fire”.
Will the NDP/Green Party Coalition Government accept the advice of Stephen Owen, a Commissioner on behalf of the Mike Harcourt NDP Government West Kootenay Commission on Resources and Environment News Release dated December 13, 1994?
An open letter to the People of the West Kootenay-Boundary Region
The document highlights the Mike Harcourt NDP Government Protected Area Strategy and presents a sound byte connected to the management of proposed Special Management Areas.
“As an example the plan recommends the Gilpin Grassland Area in the south Okanagan Highland be managed to emphasize conservation and restoration of the natural grasslands which are important for rare and endangered species, such as the western rattlesnake and the burrowing owl.”
The population of BC has grown dramatically in a generation and non-consumptive recreation has likewise grown. I am going to send you pictures taken last November in the Gilpin Grassland Class A Provincial Park, a prime target for removing cows which would dramatically improve habitat for wildlife and species at risk.
Barry Brandow Sr.