A history of wildlife management practices in British Columbia to 1918

Date

2019-10-18

Authors

Ball, Georgiana Genevieve

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Abstract

This thesis traces the evolution of wildlife manage­ment practices in British Columbia from pre-contact times to 1918. The aboriginal people employed certain measures to restrict the killing of their most valuable species, particularly salmon and beaver. They also practised environmental control to enhance deer and elk habitat. Indians were able to do this with success because most tribes recognized strict territorial rights to fishing and hunting areas by clans or families. Fierce protection of these monopoly rights prevented such practices as poaching, which would have made conservation measures futile. Because these rights were inherited, hunters and fishermen were obliged to preserve species in their care. This system of monopoly control continued after the Hudson's Bay Company acquired exclusive trading rights in the land west of the Rockies. The company recognized Indian territorial rights and used them to continue the sustained-yield harvesting of beaver in New Caledonia, and to promote the recovery of beaver stocks in the Peace River district where beaver had been depleted during the fur trade rivalry. The period of monopoly control came to an end in 1858-59 when the Hudson's Bay Company lost its exclusive trading rights. During the colonial and early provincial period, the responsibility for management controls fell to the public authorities. The initial efforts by government to restrict the hunting and sale of game was generally ineffectual because law enforcement was difficult in the sparsely settled province and because the entrepreneurial climate of the late nineteenth century was conducive to resource exploitation. Although public regulations in the nineteenth century failed to protect adequately popular species of game, sportsmen, who subscribed to the lifestyle of the British landed gentry, began introducing exotic game and private shooting preserves to the province, following the practice in Europe. They also organized game protective associations, which led the public demand for the cessation of market-hunting excesses and the appointment of government game wardens. During his tenure from 1905 to 1918, the first provincial game warden, A. Bryan Williams, made public control of game conservation a reality in much of the province. He built a department of capable deputies whose efforts annually multiplied convictions of game law infractions. At the same time, Williams constantly stressed the economic importance of game and widely advertised the province's sporting attractions. Under his direction, the government established three public game reserves. It also commenced the control of game predators and the patrol of border areas. Most importantly, Williams inaugurated the principle of game users paying for game protection through a system of licenses. By 1918 most of the public recognized govern­mental responsibility for the management of wildlife. This thesis suggests that wildlife received the most consistent and effective management when their habitat and harvest were subject to the monopolistic control of the users. It also reveals that the history of wildlife management in British Columbia did not adhere closely to the universal sequence of measures observed by Aldo Leopold, the recognized founder of the discipline of wildlife management. The paper concludes that a mixture of private and public wildlife management areas may be the most appropriate means of satisfying the various attitudes and interests of British Columbia citizens who are concerned with wildlife.

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Keywords

History, Trapping, Law and legislation, Wildlife conservation, Wildlife management, Game laws, British Columbia

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