British Columbia has one of the most varied and magnificent wildlife populations in North America. Seventy per cent of all native Canadian fauna breed in British Columbia. Although provinces like Ontario and Quebec are larger than British Columbia, B.C. contains more diversity of species than either of those provinces. [(1) -- 1. . Fred L. Bunnell and Laurie Kremsater, "Sustaining Wildlife in Managed Forests", The Northwest Environmental Journal Volume 6, No. 2 Fall/Winter 1990, pp. 245-6.] B.C. has the greatest number of bird and animal species in any Canadian jurisdiction and the greatest number unique to a province. [(2) -- 2. . Bunnell, Fred L. and Williams, R., "Subspecies and Diversity -- The Spice of Life or the Prophet of Doom" in Threatened and Endangered Species and Habitats in B.C. and the Yukon, Richard Stace-Smith, L. Johns, and P. Joslin, eds. (Victoria: B.C. Ministry of Environment, 1980), p.257. B.C. contains 288 breeding bird species and 117 mammal species. There are 25 more breeding bird species and 36 more mammal species than in any other jurisdiction in Canada. When subspecies are included, there are 392 breeding bird and 286 mammal species in B.C., 101 birds and 156 mammals more than any other province.] B.C. also has the richest flora in Canada, with over 7,000 species of plants native to the province. British Columbia's varied wildlife population enriches the lives of people who live here, and is a key reason why many tourists chose to visit our province. Eighty-seven per cent of British Columbians believe that maintaining this wildlife is an important goal. [(3) -- 3. . British Columbia Wildlife Branch, Managing Wildlife to 2001: A Discussion Paper, (Victoria: B.C. Environment, 1991), p. 1. ]
However, in the coming decades British Columbia's population will grow dramatically, as will industry and development in the province. We have seen what dramatic population and development growth has done to wildlife populations in other parts of the world. We have seen how the grizzly bear, which used to roam the breadth of North America, has retreated to small pockets of hospitable habitat in B.C., Yellowstone Park and Alaska. We have seen the wolf extirpated from 95% of its habitat in the contiguous states of the U.S. [(4) -- 4. . Fred L. Bunnell and Laurie Kremsater, "Sustaining Wildlife in Managed Forests", The Northwest Environmental Journal Volume 6, No. 2 Fall/Winter 1990, p.257.] We have seen virtually all U.S. wilderness areas outside Alaska lose at least some of their carnivore species. [(5) -- 5. . Bunnell, in "Sustaining Wildlife in Managed Forests" op. cit., p. 261.] In the Pacific Northwest we are observing the disappearance of species that have large home range requirements. [(6) -- 6. . Bunnell, in "Sustaining Wildlife in Managed Forests" op. cit., p. 261.] We have seen duck populations across North America decline alarmingly due to loss of wetland habitat. [(7) -- 7. . North American Waterfowl Management Plan, A New Beginning (Ottawa: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service, December 29, 1989), p. 1. ] Around the world over the next 25 years, it is estimated that loss of wildlife habitat will be a major factor in the destruction of more species on the earth than the entire process of evolution has destroyed over the past 3.5 billion years. [(8) -- 8. . Versteeg, Hajo, "The Protection of Endangered Species: A Canadian Perspective" Ecology Law Quarterly 11:3, 1984, pp. 267-269. ]
However, we need not look outside of British Columbia to see the impact of habitat destruction on wildlife. In the Fraser River Delta the snowshoe hare, the roosevelt elk, the cougar, the wolf, the yellow-billed cuckoo, the purple marten, the western bluebird, the horned lark, and the burrowing owl have all been completely extirpated in the last 100 years, to a large extent because of loss of habitat. [(9) -- 9. . Butler, Robert W. and Campbell, R. Wayne, The Birds of the Fraser River Delta: Populations, Ecology and International Significance, Environment Canada. Canadian Wildlife Service. Occasional Paper No. 65, 1987, p. 18. ] At least six native B.C. plant species have already been extirpated from the province. [(10) -- 10. . Sandborn, Calvin, ed. "Endangered Species and Biological Diversity" in Law Reform for Sustainable Development in British Columbia (Vancouver: Sustainable Development Committee. Canadian Bar Association. British Columbia Branch, 1990) p. 61. ] If we are to learn lessons from what has happened to wildlife in other parts of the world, and in B.C., we will have to do a better job of protecting our present wildlife -- and just as important, wildlife habitat.