New Protection for Wildlife and the Public
VICTORIA – The Environmental (Species and Public Protection) Amendment Act, introduced on April 16, 2008 by Environment Minister Barry Penner, makes amendments to the Wildlife Act and the Environmental Management Act (EMA).
The Wildlife Act, the legislative foundation for the interaction of people and wildlife in B.C. going back to the 1800s, has not had a major rewrite in 25 years. Since that time, new issues have arisen in the management of wildlife.
“These amendments to the Wildlife Act will allow us to fill in regulatory gaps for managing alien species, such as snakes and tigers, and help us protect both the public and native wildlife,” said Penner. “We are also increasing maximum fines and penalties for poaching to up to $250,000 and two years in jail, sending a clear signal that we won’t tolerate illegal hunting.”
Amendments to the Wildlife Act will add new authority to regulate ownership of harmful alien species and double fines for wildlife violations. In addition, park rangers will be given greater enforcement power, while new provisions will govern the feeding of wildlife, hunting rules, and the guide outfitting industry.
“We’re pleased that the amendments to the Wildlife Act include increased penalties for those who choose to flaunt the regulations,” said Patti MacAhonic, executive director of the B.C. Wildlife Federation. “Stiffening the fines and penalties will act as a deterrent by sending a message to would-be offenders that there’s a high price to pay for their misdeeds.”
The legislation introduced on April 16, 2008 provides authority to address the possessing, breeding, release, trafficking, shipping or transportation of alien species such as tigers and venomous snakes and other species that are potentially hazardous to public safety or native wildlife. Under the amendments, the minister will be able to prohibit or regulate the keeping of listed alien species, making it an offence to acquire, possess or sell them, except as authorized in regulation. Up until now, the government of B.C. has not had authority to take such measures with respect to alien species because they do not fall under the definition of “wildlife” in the act.
“Giving the environment minister the authority under the act to regulate exotic species that could be considered a threat to public safety is a valuable tool,” said Sara Dubois, manager of Wildlife Services for the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “It can be used by our officers, who have sometimes in the past found themselves at a loss in dealing with situations involving dangerous exotic animals.”
Park rangers will have increased authority to monitor hunting and fishing activities to ensure those activities are being done in accordance with the Wildlife Act.
The legislation authorizes the environment minister to make regulations that restrict the feeding and attracting of certain wildlife in specific areas. This will make it easier for the ministry to deal with wildlife feeding problems where and when they arise, and to enhance public safety.
In addition to these amendments to the Wildlife Act, the Environmental (Species and Public Protection) Amendment Act also amends sections of the Environmental Management Act to clarify the scope of the government’s authority concerning spill response and cost recovery, and to improve general regulation-making powers for results-based regulations and minister’s codes of practice.
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