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Mayor’s Column – May 2, 2018

May 2, 2018

 

Remarkable as is our planet, infused with enormous powers of regeneration as is our earth, still it is finite. Our trees can be counted; our birds enumerated; fish – well they’re more elusive (example: the coelacanth, discovered in the fossil record and thought to have died out in prehistoric times, but discovered again cavorting in our today seas). Ornithologists, ichthyologists, zoologists, biologists, and any other ologists that may be all seem to agree on this: there are species out there, in there, up there, and down there that we haven’t discovered – that are watching us, even serving us, waiting to be discovered, admired, appreciated, named, classified, (exploited?).

Remarkable as is our planet, infused with enormous powers of regeneration as is our earth, still it is finite. One does not need a very long memory to recall the passenger pigeon who, with millions of her family, used to darken our prairie skies. All, all are gone, that once-familiar species. The prairie bison, once numbering in the millions have been reduced to a curiosity with ear tags behind a chain-link fence. The Atlantic cod, for hundreds of years, drew European fishing fleets to the banks of the western continent. That fishery is now at rest awaiting the return of the cod.

As stewards of Creation, we humans don’t have an enviable track record. We tend to rape and pillage more than we protect creation – and more than we care to admit. And we do that to our fellow stewards at least as much as we do it to the forest, plain, ocean, and air and the creatures that therein and thereon live and move and have their being. History tells us that it doesn’t seem to matter what we call ourselves or how we see ourselves – we all do it, have done it, and continue to do it.

Remarkable as is our planet, infused with enormous powers of regeneration as is our earth, still it is finite. Hence, the efforts our senior governments are making to ensure the survival of our flora and fauna – even if we can’t name them all or know where they hide – in their jurisdictions. Hence, the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

I don’t know how there could be a warm-hearted, thinking specimen of humanity in an enlightened society who would find fault with the intent of SARA. I think it is not only admirable, it is the way our mutual Creator would want the stewards of His creation to act toward creatures in our care. We are okay with the intent. Are we okay with the application of the intent? Not always. Not now.

While we respect the authority of senior governments to govern, in our democracy we expect (at least we would hope) to be governed with respect. This is not what seems to be happening as SARA is played out. Decisions are being made without due consultation with us who share the habitat with the wild things in our spheres of influence.

The present concern with SARA is its application to Central and Southern Mountain Caribou (CMC SMC), the Narraway, Quintette, Burnt Pine, Kennedy Siding, and Moberly herds in mountainous regions of the South Peace, a species at risk under the Act. And they may indeed be at risk in real life. If so, and their numbers are declining, they deserve protection. I have just come lately into the CMC SMC discussion but I have learned enough to be thoroughly alarmed at the apparent lack of evidence driving the trajectory of the plan to protect CMC SMC. A lot of people could be badly hurt with no measurable benefits to the CMC SMC. It should be of real interest that the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has recently recommended that the risk category for CMC SMC be downgraded from threatened to endangered; a downgrading that may engender disruptive intervention measures.

The Federal strategy for population survival and recovery of CMC SMC appears to be primarily focused on the preservation of habitat. That is, restrict human access to sufficient CMC SMC habitat, and the herds will rejuvenate. If that is so, then why are caribou herds declining in areas of virtually no human activity – where no significant activity has occurred for years or decades? This question has not been answered adequately at any level.

One cannot argue that human activity has no effect on CMC SMC survival rates. We humans seem to have the capacity to affect even our own survival rates. But to impose prohibitions that will seriously compromise the ability of entire communities to survive without the science to show that our decisions have some merit is, to say it mildly, wrong.

We need more science-based information before we introduce measures that will upset the lives and livelihoods of the human species in habitat we share with CMC SMC.

Having said this, I commend our society for having a care for all species inhabiting our globe. At the present time in Canada there are scores of creatures, mammals, birds, fish, plants, and others that are at risk. We need to do what we can to protect them while remembering that we humans also need some protection.

Oh, by the way, from an ancient source of wisdom I have gleaned this beauty: “Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: wisdom preserves those who have it.”

 

Merlin Nichols, Mayor