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).
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.