A new report from B.C.’s auditor general is slamming the province for its management of its grizzly bear population.
The report found that the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Forests have not fulfilled long-standing commitments for managing grizzly bears.
“We expected that the two ministries would be managing B.C.’s grizzly bear populations cooperatively and effectively. However many of our expectations were not met,” Auditor General Carol Bellringer said.
The province estimates that B.C. is currently home to about 15,000 grizzly bears.
The report found that a primary reason the grizzly bear program became ineffective was due to a lack of organizational structure between the ministries and unclear accountability for wildlife management.
Bellringer said the Ministry of the Environment hasn’t been able to provide leadership in the pursuit of healthy grizzly bear populations because of its overlapping responsibilities with the Ministry of Forests.
The report provided ten recommendations, including advising the government to clarify the roles and responsibilities of these two ministries.
The report also stated that the provincial government has improved hunting legislation.
“The Auditor General’s report points out that the greatest threat to grizzly bears is not hunting but rather human activities that degrade grizzly bear habitat,” said Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.
“Hunting for grizzly bears for trophies is no longer socially acceptable in B.C.,” he said.
Donaldson said the ministry will implement all of the recommendations from the Auditor General, including adding more conservation officers in the new year.
“We’ve seen a significant decrease in our ability to assess risk to implement conservation measures,” he said.
Donaldson said they will also be introducing species at risk legislation with input from stakeholders, the public and Indigenous groups.
Roads through the backcountry built for industries like forestry were also cited as a threat to grizzly bear habitat.
“Road density is definitely a concern. We’re going to take an incremental approach to approve road management through legislation,” Donaldson said.
Environment Minister George Heyman said the audit lays the groundwork for creating a new approach to wildlife habitat and conservation.
“We believe with a new focus and a new government we can use existing legislation,” he said.