East Kootenay MLA candidates to attend wildlife forum

Wildlife groups and political candidate will present their views on wildlife management in Cranbrook

Columbia River-Revelstoke and Kootenay East candidates for the upcoming provincial election will hear about and present their views on East Kootenay wildlife-related issues during a public forum organized by several wildlife-focused groups next month.

The forum is being organized by East Kootenay environmental group Wildsight, the British Columbia Backcountry Hunters andAnglers, the Southern Guide Outfitters, the Ktunaxa Nation Council, several local rod and gun clubs (although not the LakeWindermere District Rod and Gun Club), the East Kootenay Wildlife Association and the Shuswap Band, and will be held inMarch.

Organizers told The Echo that the issue of wildlife management is a key one for the candidates from the two ridings.

“Looking at wildlife populations is emblematic of land use issues, and in the East Kootenay that’s a big issue,” said Wildsigh texecutive director Robyn Duncan. “The reason behind (the forum) is that we’re seeing some real changes in trends with wildlife population in the East Kootenay. So this forum is a chance for the public to discuss these challenges and also, with theprovincial election coming up, a chance for political candidates to hear those views and share their own.”

She added that those trends include increases in habitat fragmentation and loss of wildlife connectivity, among other others.

Duncan explained that all of the groups involved will have five minutes each to present their opinions on the state of the wildlife resource and management in B.C., and then the political candidates will also get five minutes each to present. Sheemphasized that the forum is not intended as a political forum so much as a wildlife management forum.

“Healthy wildlife populations are important to all of us in the Kootenays, regardless of political stripe,” she said. “We need towork together to tackle threats to our ecosystems.”

The forum is free to attend and will be held on Saturday, March 11th at the Heritage Inn in Cranbrook from 1 to 3 p.m, and the non-partisan moderator for the afternoon will be local radio personality Dennis Walker with Summit 107 FM.