The frag­mented, un­sta­ble NL wildlife divi­sion



Five years ago I de­cided to write a book about the New­found­land and Labrador wildlife divi­sion, with whom I be­gan my wildlife ca­reer as their first furbearer bi­ol­o­gist in 1967. For en­ter­tain­ment, I added true sto­ries — hu­mor­ous, tech­ni­cal, dan­ger­ous, his­tor­i­cal — from the ear­li­est wildlife work­ers in the prov­ince.

The re­cent book, “ Wildlife De­lights and Dilem­mas: New­found­land and Labrador,” is the re­sult. De­scrib­ing in it the or­ga­ni­za­tion and dis­po­si­tion of the wildlife divi­sion drove me nuts with its frag­men­ta­tion and other prob­lems. It was so com­pli­cated that I pre­pared a re­port I sent in June to the premier and to the min­is­ter of the Depart­ment of Environment and Con­ser­va­tion, among oth­ers, and to var­i­ous li­braries.

Pre­sented herein for the prov­ince’s tax­pay­ers is the gist of the book and the re­port.

The wildlife divi­sion’s re­cent an­nual re­port ends with a plea. “ The chal­lenges fac­ing the divi­sion into the fu­ture in­clude: clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the var­i­ous agen­cies re­spon­si­ble for de­liv­ery of the provin­cial wildlife pro­gram.

Nor­mally, a wildlife depart­ment has three di­vi­sions: (1) re­search and man­age­ment, (2) pro­tec­tion and en­force­ment, and (3) in­for­ma­tion and ed­u­ca­tion. Not in New­found­land and Labrador.

Ex­clud­ing the Depart­ment of Labrador Af­fairs, which in­volves wildlife and in­dige­nous peo­ple, five provin­cial de­part­ments and four Cana­dian de­part­ments are in­volved with the wildlife and fish pro­gram for the prov­ince: Depart­ment of Environment and Con­ser­va­tion, Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, Depart­ment of Tourism, Cul­ture and Re­cre­ation, Depart­ment of Jus­tice, Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Aqua­cul­ture (salmon), Cana­dian Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans, Environment Canada (Cana­dian Wildlife Ser­vice and Parks Canada), Min­istry of Pub­lic Safety Canada (RCMP), and Cana­dian Depart­ment of Jus­tice.

Four of the provin­cial de­part­ments con­tain six di­vi­sions or branches di­rectly in­volved with fish and wildlife op­er­a­tions: (1) Depart­ment of Environment and Con­ser­va­tion (Wildlife Divi­sion [wildlife re­search and man­age­ment and in­for­ma­tion and ed­u­ca­tion], Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment and Strate­gic Sci­ence Branch [some wildlife re­search]), Parks and Nat­u­ral Ar­eas Divi­sion (eco­log­i­cal re­serves and wilder­ness ar­eas); (2) Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources (wildlife field per­son­nel, i.e., con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cers); (3) Depart­ment of Jus­tice (Wildlife and In­land Fish En­force­ment Pro­gram); (4) Depart­ment of Tourism, Cul­ture and Re­cre­ation (Tourism Branch for li­cens­ing out­fit­ters and non-res­i­dent hunters and fish­ers).

Too ex­pen­sive

Ex­pen­sive to tax­pay­ers and in­ef­fi­cient with dis­sat­is­fied em­ploy­ees, this com­plex ar­range­ment, par­tic­u­larly in­volv­ing five provin­cial de­part­ments, is nuts.

In other prov­inces and states gen­er­ally, wildlife, forestry, and parks tend to be in the same depart­ment be­cause of over­lap­ping fields. But in New­found­land and Labrador, the wildlife divi­sion is in one depart­ment while much of the habi­tat ( forests) for the money-pro­duc­ing species (moose, cari­bou, bear) and cer­tain other species it man­ages is in an­other depart­ment. The names of the two de­part­ments, Environment and Con­ser­va­tion and Nat­u­ral Re­sources, are con­fus­ing by their sim­i­lar­ity; it’s a guess which one houses what.

Man­age­ment of in­land fish, i.e., salmonids (trout and salmon), is a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity among the New­found­land and Labrador Depart­ment of Jus­tice, the Depart­ment of Environment and Con­ser­va­tion, and the Canada Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) as set forth un­der the Canada Fish­eries Act. In ad­di­tion, the provin­cial Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Aqua­cul­ture col­lab­o­rates with the DFO man­ag­ing com­mer­cial fish­eries (in­clud­ing salmon).

Four agen­cies in three de­part­ments pro­duce pub­li­ca­tions in­volv­ing wildlife and fish man­age­ment. The Depart­ment of Tourism, Cul­ture and Re­cre­ation pub­lishes “Guide to Hunt­ing & Fish­ing Out­fit­ters.” The Cana­dian Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans pub­lishes the “ New­found­land and Labrador An­gler’s Guide.” The wildlife divi­sion in the New­found­land and Labrador Depart­ment of Environment and Con­ser­va­tion pub­lishes the “New­found­land and Labrador Hunt­ing and Trap­ping Guide.” The parks and nat­u­ral ar­eas divi­sion pub­lishes “A Guide to Our Wilder­ness and Eco­log­i­cal Re­serves.” All of these pub­li­ca­tions in­volve wildlife and fish man­age­ment.

Since 1980, the wildlife divi­sion has been as­signed to eight dif­fer­ent de­part­ments, av­er­ag­ing 3.9 years in each. De­spite the value of the wildlife re­source, the Wildlife Divi­sion has re­ceived low bud­gets, and has been shuf­fled around be­tween var­i­ous de­part­ments as though the govern­ment did not know where it be­longed, thus fos­ter­ing in­sta­bil­ity.


Ac­cord­ing to govern­ment re­ports, hunt­ing, trap­ping, and in­land fish­ing con­trib­ute more to the GDP than forestry and log­ging, more than agri­cul­ture, and al­most as much as fish prod­ucts. It con­trib­utes much more to em­ploy­ment (of­ten sea­sonal, how­ever) than each of the other re­sources. And that’s not in­clud­ing the vast con­tri­bu­tion to the GDP by wildlife-re­lated tourism. Stud­ies in­di­cate that wildlife gen­er­ates sub­stan­tial rev­enue to the econ­omy through sub­sis­tence and through re­cre­ation such as wildlife-re­lated tourism.

The most re­cent fig­ures, go­ing back to 1996, re­veal that folks in this prov­ince then spent $193 mil­lion for na­ture-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties: $41.5 mil­lion for hunt­ing, $21.4 mil­lion for wildlife view­ing, $31.7 mil­lion for in­land fish­ing, and $98.4 mil­lion for other wildlife ac­tiv­i­ties.

The par­tic­i­pa­tion rate for hunt­ing in the prov­ince was the high­est in Canada: 27.2 per cent ver­sus 10.6 per cent in Canada. More re­cently, in 2009 the eco­nomic value of the big game out­fit­ting in­dus­try alone was $35 mil­lion, which is about 10 per cent of the to­tal eco­nomic value of non-res­i­dent tourism in the prov­ince.

Although hunt­ing is a fall busi­ness mostly, the out­fit­ting client is the high­est spend­ing client for all busi­nesses in the en­tire prov­ince. Nev­er­the­less, the bud­get for the wildlife divi­sion is rel­a­tively low when com­pared to other nat­u­ral re­sources.

The wildlife divi­sion man­ages 92 per cent of the prov­ince, be­cause, un­like trees, wildlife oc­curs through­out the prov­ince in all types of habi­tat, not just forests. By com­par­i­son, with rel­a­tively lit­tle pro­duc­tive for­est land in the prov­ince, the forestry ser­vice ac­tu­ally man­ages just 16 per cent of the en­tire prov­ince: 34 per cent in New­found­land and 10 per cent in Labrador.

Wildlife of­ten over­looked

The im­pact on wildlife of other re­source de­vel­op­ments can be sub­stan­tial and largely avoided or com­pen­sated with greater care and mit­i­ga­tion.

Due to the wrong­ful per­cep­tion that other re­sources al­ways trump the wildlife re­source, the in­dus­tries of fish­ery, pulp and pa­per, agri­cul­ture, min­ing, hy­dro­elec­tric power, and oil have been de­vel­oped with­out re­gard for wildlife, of­ten by ig­nor­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ments and as­sess­ments, of­ten with avoid­able dam­ag­ing re­sults, and usu­ally with­out mit­i­ga­tion for (1) mor­tal­ity and re­duced re­pro­duc­tion and (2) habi­tat loss sus­tained.

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