The British Columbia Trappers Association is ruffling feathers in hope of protecting vulnerable species.
The animal trapping and wildlife management organization is bringing attention to the Migratory Birds Convention Act, a close to 100-year-old international agreement to protect birds species in Canada and the United States, with letters addressed to government officials and forestry companies, whose logging practices are being questioned by the group.
“BC Trappers from around the province have witnessed large scale harvesting through [critical nesting periods from May to August] for years, and seen the significant decline in bird and mammal populations,” states the letter by Brian Dack, the organization’s president.
“We want to ensure that all natural resources in our great province are harvested or developed in a sustainable way to ensure that our greatest natural resource – wildlife and natural biodiversity, will be here for eternity.”
They’ve been met with mostly apathy or hostility, says Paul Blackwell, a local resident and director with the BC Trappers, who adds that Dack received “very nasty threatening phone calls” from people associated with lumber companies in the U.S.
Blackwell says provincial government officials “are listening politely,” but are not committed to real enforcement of the act if it means negatively impacting industry.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett met with Blackwell recently to discuss the issue. While acknowledging wildlife conservation is an important concern, Barnett notes that this particular act is administered and enforced at the federal level by Environment Canada.
B.C. has its own management policies with industry in place to protect migratory birds, such as the establishment of parks and protected areas, she says.
“In B.C., we’re a global leader in sustainable integrated resource management. Under the Forest and Range Practices Act, forest companies address habitat needs of identified birds, species at risk, or conservation concerns in their forest stewardship plans.”
The MLA talks about balancing the protection of the environment with economic concerns.
“We have to work together to protect both. We can’t shut down industry and we can’t ignore wildlife habitat.”
Environment Canada says complaints regarding potential violations of the act and regulations it enforces are closely examined on a case-by-case basis, and doesn’t acknowledge any specific violations of the Migratory Birds Convention Act by forest companies in the province.
“The protection of Canada’s wildlife is a collaborative effort that benefits from close co-operation between Environment Canada and its partners at the federal, provincial and local levels, including industry.”