Environmental coalition says BC needs more wildlife refuges

Fernie – A coalition of environmental and conservation groups is calling on the BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) to work with them to create a system of wildlife refuges to ensure healthy wildlife populations in British Columbia.

Wildlife refuges, or sanctuaries, are large areas of natural habitat where animals can breed and raise their young without being shot or trapped. By serving as source populations, they contribute to wider regional wildlife populations where hunting can occur outside of refuges.

“Along with habitat protection, refuges are important for maintaining healthy wildlife populations into the future,” says Wildsight Director of Conservation John Bergenske. The wildlife sanctuaries also provide a benchmark against which biologists can measure the wildlife populations where hunting is allowed.

Currently, virtually no BC provincial parks are wildlife refuges, and less than 1 percent of the province is set aside as wildlife refuges, with almost all of these within national parks.

“BC’s lack of wildlife refuges is striking compared to Alberta, which has 10 percent coverage in wildlife refuges,” adds Harvey Locke, Strategic Advisor to the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y). “The lack of refuges compared to its neighbours is particularly striking in southeast BC, where Montana has Glacier National Park and Alberta has Waterton Lakes National Park, but BC has no sanctuaries for wildlife. More balance is needed to provide both secure wildlife populations and hunting opportunities in BC’s Southern Rockies.”

The environmental coalition, otherwise known as Flathead Wild, is made up of groups looking to protect BC’s Flathead Valley from increased development. The team, which in Canada includes Y2Y, Wildsight, CPAWS-BC and Sierra Club BC, hopes to work with the BC Wildlife Federation, and others, to ensure healthy wildlife populations for all British Columbians.