The B.C. government is considering putting revenues from hunting licences and tags into a dedicated fund for wildlife management, Forests Minister Steve Thomson says.
A similar shift was made with fishing licence revenue last year to boost the budget for the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. by $3 million a year for its lake stocking program. The province is in discussions with the B.C. Wildlife Federation and others to do something similar, Thomson told Black Press in an interview.
The ministry has expanded its multi-year study of declining moose populations into a broader modernization of wildlife management, with the funding increase on the table.
"We have Al Gorley, the former chair of the Forest Practices Board, engaged with the groups currently, both on a moose population enhancement program but also engaging in discussion around modernizing wildlife management going forward," Thomson said. "[That] includes a discussion around how we would potentially see those licensing revenues move to a model where they would have more active say and management in the use of those resources."
Thomson revealed the plan after Kootenay West NDP MLA Katrine Conroy called for more support for wildlife management in the B.C. legislature last week. She presented a private member's bill calling for a special purpose account to support wildlife management.
"I've been talking to First Nations, resident hunters, guide outfitters, trappers, people who just recreate with wildlife, and everybody has expressed concern about the habitat of fish and wildlife in this province," Conroy said.
"Hunters who have been out there, they know for instance the mule deer in the Kootenays is disappearing, whereas they're told it's not. Up north it's moose in some areas."
Thomson acknowledged more needs to be done. He said an additional $12 million in his ministry budget this year is to support wildlife inventory and habitat improvement.
He said provincial hunting advisory teams are in place, and it is not necessary to legislate a permanent wildlife roundtable as suggested in Conroy's bill.
Hunting has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Moose are the most popular big-game target for resident hunters, and some areas have restricted moose tags through regional lotteries used for less abundant species such as elk.