Steeves/Trail Mix: Government’s bent on destroying the wild, not protecting it

If we want to protect any wilderness areas we have to do it ourselves, and non-profit groups are doing just that.

Grasslands in the Richter Pass area

Grasslands in the Richter Pass area

It’s pretty impressive what the non-profit sector is achieving in the way of protecting and even restoring natural features in the Okanagan—but I can’t say the same for government.

Even many businesses contribute their fair share toward projects, but there are fewer and fewer provincial and federal government staff here looking after our air and water quality, and habitat for birds, wildlife and fish.

And, instead of beefing up legislation to protect Canada’s wild areas, both governments are watering it down and slashing it to pieces.

Yet, those wild things and wild spaces are what Canada is all about, to those of us living here—and to people in other countries who are envious that we have such varied and vast wilderness areas.

Whether it’s rocky ocean shorelines and islands, stunning waterfalls, wide rivers, burbling streams, open grasslands, sere desert, lush forests, snowy mountains, rich wetlands or meadows of wildflowers, both B.C. and Canada have it all—still.

But it’s not going to last as long as our senior governments deem that resource extraction and big industry’s needs trump protection of the natural environment.

The terms salmon rivers and trout lakes will be only words at the rate we’re going. Soon, pristine will never again be paired with wilderness in this country.

And, it’s not just me ranting on…earlier this month the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development released the findings of an audit completed for the office of the Auditor General of Canada that included a lengthy list of shortcomings detailing the mismanagement and neglect of the environment by this Conservative government of Stephen Harper and his cronies in Ottawa.

He reported that more than 70 per cent of national wildlife areas and 55 per cent of migratory bird sanctuaries do not meet their purpose as protected areas. Parks Canada has failed to establish a scientifically-credible monitoring and reporting system; staffing for conservation at national parks has declined 23 per cent and scientific staff positions are down by more than a third.

More than a third of national parks have experienced a deterioration in their ecosystems, he reported.

As we all know here in B.C., Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada fall short on doing what they are mandated to do. They have not met legal requirements for Species at Risk recovery plans, with seven of 97 required plans in place, he noted.

It makes one wonder about the wisdom of creating a new national park in the South Okanagan for this government to manage when it’s busy tearing up all its environmental legislation.

In the absence of senior government leadership, it has fallen to non-profit organizations to try and fill in some of the gaps, where they can.

Groups such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which has brought together dozens of groups and individuals, including the Okanagan Region Wildlife Heritage Fund Society ( and the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (, to purchase 1,262 hectares of grassland habitat along the border in the South Okanagan this year.

The Sage and Sparrow  properties are critical components of a migratory corridor for species moving between the desert and the dry grasslands of interior B.C. The properties abut the 9,364-ha provincial South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area to form a habitat link between the Similkameen and Okanagan Valleys.

Such buy-in by volunteers and the non-profit organizations they belong to is not only admirable, but also essential when government forsakes its responsibilities like this.

Your help is needed to continue the work non-profit organizations do, so consider volunteering to do your bit or donating to provide the materials needed.

ORWHFS was formed in 1988 here by members of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, Okanagan Region, to purchase land for wildlife, while the HCTF raises its money through surcharges on hunting, fishing and guiding licences and invests it in projects to maintain and enhance the health and biological diversity of habitat.

Those anglers and hunters from throughout the province will gather in Kelowna next spring for the 2014 annual general meeting of the BCWF at the Delta Grand, Apr. 10-12. If you can spare a few hours to volunteer or make a donation for the annual fund-raising event, contact Jared Wilkison at 878-6598 or at:; or Ken Sward at 499-5984 or at:

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.




Kelowna Capital News