Let’s create a standalone, appropriately resourced Ministry of Fish, Wildlife and Habitat, with a mandate including proactive habitat management and fire prevention.
BC is in flames. People are in crisis. First responders are in harm’s way.
We need to hold the NDP to account and ask tough questions.
But we also need to put forward constructive solutions.
A New Ministry
Here’s an idea: let’s create a standalone, appropriately resourced Ministry of Fish, Wildlife and Habitat, with a mandate including proactive habitat management and fire prevention.
We can staff up a rural Conservation Corps, creating local jobs doing work like habitat management, removing debris from streams and forest floors, and conducting controlled burns.
Given how much money we spend on ramping up wildfire response every summer, and the growing toll of wildfires on people and communities, investing more consistently in preparedness is a smart move that will save lives, save money, protect homes, and preserve the natural splendour of British Columbia.
We should work jointly with municipalities and First Nations to get it right from the outset.
An integrated Ministry of Fish, Wildlife and Habitat would also be a logical way to bring together a more coordinated and strategic approach to biodiversity, climate mitigation, and ecological management, including issues like riparian area protection and forest stream management to remove debris that block salmon and steelhead runs and contribute to the degradation of wildlife populations.
And let’s be honest: we need a senior Minister to take the lead on addressing biodiversity, fish and wildlife scarcity, and the growing social conflicts over fishing and hunting that are emerging as a result. We need someone who understands the rural perspective, has a broad mandate for consultation, and can get everyone including, industry, community, municipal, and Indigenous leaders at the same table for genuine discussions around conservation.
I’ve written previously about the pilot project the NDP cancelled: a data-driven program that could better predict the path of wildfires and help deploy our firefighting resources faster and more effectively. We need innovation like that to continue, not be shut down.
My fellow leadership contestant Ellis Ross has a finger on the pulse of rural BC, and he has talked about creating a wildfire fighting and prevention institute. A good idea is a good idea, and his thinking could fit well with my proposed Ministry of Fish, Wildlife and Habitat.