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Anti Trophy Hunting
Anti Trophy Hunting

Capital News, Kelowna, BC
By Judie Steeves, Staff reporter

Man’s harvest of the natural world was a way of life when Ted Barsby was a boy.

“When this country was settled that’s how people survived,” he explains. “As a kid, hunting and fishing was part of our daily life.”

He remembers getting out of school on a Friday afternoon and heading off for a 15-mile backpacking trip to a favourite lake to fish for the weekend. In order to be able to continue living like that, as part of that natural world, it was important to make sure you weren’t greedy; that fish, wildlife and plant populations remained at a sustainable level.

In fact, hunting is also a tool for managing the wildlife resource, by preventing over-grazing by wildlife, Barsby maintains.

As the first president of the B.C. Wildlife Federation 50 years ago, Barsby says he loves the outdoors and hunts and shoots because he has great admiration for the animals he tracks—and he likes eating deer and elk meat.

Over the years, he says the BCWF has made more recommendations that hunting be curtailed in an area than that it not be, because of concerns about the health of a population of animals.

Today, at the age of 86, Barsby hasn’t missed a BCWF convention in the past 50 years, including last week’s in the Okanagan, the same part of the province where the federation was born in 1956, out of a sportsmen’s council which had been in place for nearly a decade before that.

That council included two representatives from each game management zone in the province, which gathered at the request of the attorney-general of the day to work with the provincial game commission on the management of fish and wildlife in the province.

Clubs, whether they were called fish and game clubs or protective associations, had been in existence for decades previously.

The Kelowna Fish and Game club celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004 and 29 of the current 127 BCWF member clubs have been in existence for 85 years or longer, according to Bill Otway, who has been involved in conservation here for 55 years. Although initially the clubs operated in isolation, Otway says they began to form loose-knit coalitions to discuss mutual problems in the ’20s and ’30s. He recalls that travel in B.C. was quite different at that time, so holding meetings was a challenge.

“I can remember when a trip from Port Coquitlam to Princeton, in the early 1950’s, was an all-day event, and traveling to the Okanagan, Cariboo or Kootenays was an expedition of no small nature,” he says.

The B.C. Interior group held its 17th annual convention in Clinton in 1946, and members attended from Kelowna, Vernon, Summerland, Peachland, Bridge Lake, Revelstoke, Nickel Plate, Lumby, Princeton, Keremeos-Cawston, Salmon Arm, Enderby-Grinrod-Mara, Hedley, Brockmere, Penticton and Oliver. There was no Coquihalla Highway connecting the communities, no bridge over Okanagan Lake and not even a Hope Princeton Highway.

Transportation was a little better in 1956 when the clubs got together in a more formal way as the B.C. Federation of Fish and Game Councils, which later became the BCWF. “It was a pretty powerful organization,” says Barsby.

It was the only organization at the time that was into conservation, he added. “There are a lot now, some we agree with and some we don’t,” he says.

In that vein, another past-president, John Holdstock of Kelowna, warns that many anglers and hunters don’t realize what zealots some of the animal rights activists are.

“They think you shouldn’t eat meat. They are well-organized and funded and they’re not going to go away. They should be taken seriously,” he says. He too, notes that the BCWF has a big voice out there, with 30,000 members and lots of supporters above that number.

It was during his term as president that the campaign against hunting black bears was being spearheaded by Anthony Marr, recalls Holdstock.

“It ate up most of the first year of my presidency.”

He warns that the issue of hunters versus non-hunters is still very big, and it’s at the bottom of many other issues as well, he says. “They pick their icons like the ‘spirit bear’ which is just a light phase of the black bear,” he says.

Why the bear? “It’s cute, and it’s an interesting animal,” he says.

In the 25 or so years since he moved to B.C. and became a member of the Kelowna club, Holdstock says the issues the BCWF has dealt with haven’t really changed all that much. Such concerns as access to the back country; competition between resource users; and allocation of hunting and fishing rights between natives, residents and non-residents, are still some of the biggest issues. Passing the torch on to young people is another important effort of federation members.

In 1994, the Frank Shannon Junior Conservation Award was founded to encourage young people to get involved in conservation of natural resources, whether by educating, protecting or restoring, or doing inventories.

Shannon was another charter member of the BCWF. He was instrumental in establishment of the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Authority and initiated what is now the Conservation and Outdoor Recreation and Education Program (CORE).

Now 94, Shannon attended this year’s 50th anniversary convention and talked a bit about the importance of a lively conservation organization.

“The unified approach to government is important,” he believes, noting that lobbying government is an important facet of the federation’s work. He has concerns about wildlife, because there’s so much loss of habitat with increased human populations.

“Too many people don’t care,” he says. An avid angler, he lived for decades on the shores of Kootenay Lake where he enjoyed “the finest fishing in the world.”

He now lives on the shores of Okanagan Lake. He says both lakes are still reeling from the effects of the introduction of mysis shrimp decades ago by the provincial government. Those little shrimp, although it was intended they would be feed for game fish like kokanee, turned the tables, and out-competed the young kokanee for the same zooplankton.

“That will never be undone,” he says. “They’re so prolific we’ll never get rid of them.”

However, he’s convinced the BCWF has been a huge benefit to B.C.’s fish and wildlife management. Bill Bennett, MLA for East Kootenay, is also a strong supporter of the federation. He introduced the Hunting and Fishing Heritage Act in the B.C. legislature. It was passed in November 2002.

He says he believes that hunting and fishing is more than a legal right; it’s part of our heritage in this province. Passage of that bill raised the profile of hunting and fishing, he says. “Those who don’t hunt or have rural roots have the devil of a time understanding how hunting brings you closer to nature,” he says. “We’re a predator. That’s not understood in the city. They were raised with the Disneyland approach. Yet we’ve been interacting with nature forever.

“It’s as natural as can be. Humans have been hunting and fishing since the beginning of time. “And, we can do it without threatening species. It’s the only way to manage populations of animals. “(However) when you take large populations of people and separate them from their food source, they don‘t know where resources like minerals, meat and that revenue comes from.”

He notes that logging, mining and the earth are the basis for B.C.’s economic health.

Unfortunately, Bennett sees urbanites moving out to rural areas and bringing their values with them. He is concerned that conservationists like the members of the BCWF are a diminishing breed. He says the group needs to raise more money and invest in educating people, particularly in the school system, to counter the message of city dwellers against hunting and fishing.

“Young people are very receptive to our message,” Bennett says. Those young people are needed to continue the federation’s history of protecting the resource that is so close to the hearts of the members of this grassroots conservation organization, he argues.

Today, long-time members like Barsby are concerned about excessive use of resources such as water and wood, and the impact that’ll have on fish and wildlife.

“We’re still drawers of water and hewers of wood—in excess,” says Barsby. “And that concerns me. We log too heavily.” “It’s important we take care of wintering areas for wildlife. “There’s too much political interference. “Wildlife is not considered as it should be. Golf courses and ski resorts are putting too much pressure on wildlife.”

As with many past-presidents, Ed Mankelow is still chair of three BCWF committees and also stays involved in federation issues. He joined in 1959, and the memories of hunting and fishing as a youngster in England were still fresh.

“There, the average working class person was restricted to fishing for coarse fish,” he recalls. “To fish for trout you had to belong to a club to access private property.” Where his fellow Canadian anglers might take trout fishing for granted, Mankelow says he realized only too clearly how easy it would be to lose that opportunity. “You take your rights for granted,” he warns.

Mankelow remembers the BCWF being the only organization around that objected (successfully) when the Social Credit government decided to allow mining in Strathcona Provincial Park. “We paved the way for other groups to exist,” he notes.

Although different people join the BCWF for different reasons, there are many common interests. Ron Taylor, of Lake Country, has been involved in the Oceola Fish and Game Club since 1961 and served as a director on the BCWF for a couple of years. He says he got involved because he liked fishing and hunting and wanted to work with people who respected the same things. Improving the lot of kokanee trying to spawn in local creeks has been a major focus of both Taylor and the club over the years, with considerable success.

John Weber has been a member of the Kelowna club for 40 years. He says an interest in getting involved in habitat restoration and enhancement projects were part of the reason he got involved. That club has done some work along the banks of Bellevue Creek and has been involved in sheep transplants to augment the Shorts Creek wild sheep herd, as well as turkey transplants, he notes. Weber’s been fishing in local lakes for the past 40 or 50 years, and he thinks fishing them is just as good now as it was then. Weber says even the numbers of people don’t seem to have increased all that much around his favourite upland lakes.

Dave White, immediate past-president of the BCWF, likens hunters and anglers to the canary in the coal mine.

“We warn of the loss of species; of problems with fish and wildlife and their habitat,” he says.

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