Province set to develop grizzly bear management plan

 

The province is accepting all 10 recommendations in the auditor general’s report on the management of grizzly bear populations.

In addition it will develop a provincial grizzly bear management plan with “clear objectives, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities,” according to a government release.

In August 2017, government announced that it will end grizzly bear trophy hunting throughout the province and stop all hunting of grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest, at the end of November.

“As a new government, we agree that more needs to be done for this iconic species and to improve wildlife management overall in British Columbia, but we know that grizzly bears remain in 90% of their historic range,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We look forward to implementing the auditor general’s recommendations.”

At the same time, government announced that it will begin consulting on a renewed wildlife management strategy for the province. The auditor general’s report will help to shape and form that strategy to develop short- and long-term plans for wildlife resources and protect habitat for all wildlife.

 

The auditor general’s recommendations are:

Recommendation 1: The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Ministry of Environment create and implement a grizzly bear management plan that includes:

  • Clear indication of how the plan fits into the ministries’ overall wildlife management planning (where is it in the priority);
  • Clear goals and targets;
  • Prioritized activities and timelines, including accountabilities for those activities; and
  • Resources and expertise required to undertake the activities in the plan.

Response: The ministries will work together to complete a provincial grizzly bear management plan to guide the development of area-based management plans where they are needed.

The Province is also committed to a collaborative process with First Nations, stakeholders and the public to improving wildlife management and habitat conservation for all species.

Recommendation 2: The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Ministry of Environment develop and implement an adequately resourced inventory and monitoring strategy for grizzly bears.

Response: The ministries will prepare a B.C. grizzly bear inventory and monitoring strategy. To support the resourcing of identified priorities, government is exploring options for dedicated funding for wildlife and habitat conservation.

Recommendation 3: The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations revise its policy and procedures to determine how uncertainty will be accounted for when determining grizzly bear-hunt allocations and to be transparent about the process.

Response: The Grizzly Bear Harvest Management Procedure will be modified to address uncertainty explicitly, and guidance for reporting uncertainties in population estimates will be developed. This will be done so it aligns with the Province’s broader objective to improve wildlife management and habitat conservation in the province.

Effective Nov. 30, 2017, the grizzly bear hunt will end in the Great Bear Rainforest and a ban will be implemented on trophy hunting, while allowing food and First Nations hunting opportunities for grizzly bears in the remainder of the province.

Recommendation 4: The Ministry of Environment ensure the Conservation Officer Service has the appropriate resources and tools for preventing and responding to conflicts with grizzly bears.

Response: The Province is committed to greater investment in the Conservation Officer Service. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy will work closely with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to increase activities that aim to reduce human-bear conflicts and lethal methods of control.

Recommendation 5: The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Ministry of Environment develop clear policies and procedures for bear viewing.

Response: In 2016, provincial government staff began meeting with the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC and other stakeholders to discuss concerns and opportunities with the bear-viewing industry. Government is committed to formalizing a collaborative process with First Nations, industry and stakeholders to develop clear policies and procedures for wildlife viewing in the interest of bear conservation and viability of bear-viewing businesses.

Recommendation 6: The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Ministry of Environment identify those grizzly bear populations that are in need of recovery and outline what actions will be taken and when.

Response: Over a decade ago, the Province classified nine grizzly bear population units where populations were in decline or had the potential to become extirpated (locally extinct). Today, four population units (the Granby, South Selkirk, South Chilcotin and Squamish Lillooet) which have been the focus of research, monitoring and enhanced management have increasing grizzly bear numbers.

As part of the Provincial Grizzly Bear Management Plan, a formal process to prioritize specific populations for enhancement activities will be developed.

Recommendation 7: The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Ministry of Environment evaluate and adjust as needed the tools used to mitigate industries’ impacts on grizzly bear habitats.

Response: Government is committed to improving wildlife management and habitat conservation. The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is implementing new guidance to statutory decision makers and professionals to ensure enhanced consideration of wildlife values including grizzly bear.

As well, the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) has monitoring requirements and conducts inspections on the conditions of certificates issued under the Environmental Assessment Act. The auditor general’s recommendations will also be considered during revitalization of the environmental assessment process.

Recommendation 8: The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Ministry of Environment evaluate and adjust as needed tools to conserve grizzly bear habitats.

Response: British Columbia has established management provisions for approximately 340,000 km2 (150,000 km2 of high quality) of grizzly bear habitat through establishment of designations under the Forest and Range Practices Act, Land Act, Parks Act and Great Bear Rainforest Land Use Order. The two ministries are currently evaluating these designations through the Forest and Range Evaluation Program and Cumulative Effects Framework assessments. The effectiveness review of these tools will continue and adjustments will be recommended as required.

Recommendation 9:  The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Ministry of Environment report out to the public and legislators on how well it is managing grizzly bear populations throughout British Columbia.

Response: Grizzly bears are already a key “Environmental Reporting B.C.” value that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy reports to the public about the status of grizzly bear populations in the province. The Province uses web-based tools, updated regularly, to report on key aspects of grizzly bear management. The Province will revise its provincial status assessment, web-based metrics and maps, and associated reporting pages as required, while reviewing the effectiveness of ongoing efforts in making the information available to the public and legislators.

Recommendation 10: Government review the legislation, policies and accountabilities for wildlife management and ensure that roles, responsibilities and accountabilities allow the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Ministry of Environment to be fully effective in delivering grizzly bear management.

Response: Legislation, policy, and accountabilities for grizzly bear management span both ministries. The natural resource sector agencies have a governance structure and processes that foster collaboration and integration.

In addition, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy will work together to review the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities for grizzly bear management and include them in the Provincial Grizzly Bear Management Plan. If changes are needed to ensure greater effectiveness in co-ordination, effectiveness and accountability they will be brought forward and considered.