BUDGET AX HITS B.C. WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT HOOK-AND-BULLET CULTURE
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1997:
VICTORIA, B.C.––Possibly adding by subtraction,
British Columbian prime minister Glen Clark of the left-leaning
New Democratic Party has axed eight senior fish and wildlife
managers since November 1996––and has put the provincial
wildlife department under five-year director of law enforcement
Nancy Bircher, apparently the first woman to head any
Canadian wildlife department.
Clark touts the exodus as downsizing to reduce the
provincial debt. Opponents term it “proof the government is
pursuing a brown agenda,” as Mark Hume of the Vancouver
Sun put it. Altogether, about 1,500 employees of environmental
departments have been laid off or ushered into early retirement,
even as the Clark regime has allowed logging in the
Stoltman Wilderness, near Squamish, and has resisted federal
pressure to reduce the B.C. commercial salmon fleet.
But Clark also unloaded a lot of avidly pro-hunting
good old boys in assistant deputy wildlife minister Jim Walker,
wildlife director Ray Halladay, deputy wildlife director Bill
Munro, chief of wildlife Ray Demarchi, moose and deer specialist
Dan Blower, and research manager Don Eastman. In
putting Bircher in charge of the newly streamlined wildlife
department, Clark simultaneously sent a strong message that
his administration considers protecting wildlife more important
than promoting hunting.
A 17-year environment ministry staffer, including
eight years in the wildlife department, Bircher admits to fishing
and hunting in the past, but told the S u n she no longer
Ousted from the department of fisheries, meanwhile,
were director Harvey Andrusak, deputy director Gerry Taylor,
and resource impacts chief Geoff Chislett.
The one evident concession to wildlife use industries
was that Walker was temporarily kept on as a consultant, at the
demand of the British Columbia Wildlife Federation.
However, the departmental turnover is likely to
accelerate a gradual evolution of wildlife management culture
more than bring immediate policy change.
Senior wildlife biologist Sean Sharp warned on April
16 that the loss of personnel may mean more shootings of socalled
nuisance bears. “Unless we get a drastic change in the
budget we have right now,” he said, “there won’t be any
money to do any bear reloactions this year.” Already, Sharp
charged, “The number killed by the ministry meets or exceeds
hunter kills in some areas.”
A similar downsizing is underway in Michigan,
where 22% of the state Department of Natural Resources staff
are eligible for retirement by June 1 under a budget reduction
plan advanced by Governor John Engler. Forty DNR employees
reportedly retired during the first two weeks of April alone,
and another 100 to 150 are expected to follow. Only one in
four will be replaced. Game wardens are not included in the
deal. The senior Michigan DNR staff remain in place, however,
including director K.L. Cool, indicating that the Michigan
cuts are less likely to bring changes in the departmental focus.