Editorial: shared habitat

Editorial: shared habitat

Rural communities’ everyday observations of wildlife could help inform provincial policy

Quesnel locals are given constant reminders that we share our surroundings with B.C.’s abundant wildlife, from the deer and birds in our gardens to fox and bear that occasionally make appearances near our homes.

The provincial government recently began engaging the public on wildlife management and habitat conservation, asking for input to understand the challenges and opportunities to develop more effective management tools.

People living in rural communities are some of the best to survey on these topics. From Indigenous communities to farming families, people who choose a rural lifestyle observe and interact with wildlife on a daily basis, and can have particular insights to share.

The Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance’s recent call for a moratorium on caribou hunting in the Cariboo is a prime example of how a community can work to inform policy makers. When the Observer received the Alliance’s press release, our reporters forwarded it to the office of the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development. We were told this was the first the office had heard on the recommendation, and the Ministry stated they would be considering next steps. Another example is the Ministry’s ban on moose hunting in wildfire zones in the Cariboo-Chilcotin last year.

The Southern Dakelh Alliance believes the caribou population in our region is at risk due to wildfires, timber harvesting and mountain pine beetle destroying habitat, as well as the animals being overhunted. And many other species are or could be at risk for the same reasons.

It’s why locals need to engage with the government on these topics. Community members on the ground can offer solid feedback to policy makers in Victoria – maybe even offering up information or insight that could change the way habitats are managed, for the better.

We’ve seen how the forests have changed, irreparably, after the wildfires last summer. Thousands of hectares of land exist with toothpick-like trees still standing. Birds and rodents may be slowly returning to these areas, but larger animals are unlikely to make their way back for some time, as no protection from the elements is offered in these areas, and food is scarce.

The forests that remain need to be looked after and harvested mindfully, with regeneration and protection in mind.

We urge locals to share their ideas with the province. The comment period ends July 31. Visit https://engage.gov.bc.ca/wildlifeandhabitat/ to have your say.

Melanie Law

Quesnel Cariboo Observer