A People’s History of Wildlife in British Columbia

A People’s History of Wildlife in British Columbia

Estimated publication dates: government report (Spring 2021); book manuscript (Spring 2022)

John Pritchard packing out a black-tailed deer, Comox, 13 November 1939, BC Archives, Item #51793.

Commissioned in 2018 by the BC Fish and Wildlife Branch, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD), this project will produce a social history of wildlife and wildlife management in British Columbia from pre-colonization through to the present. Drawing upon scholarly literature, government reports, and over seventy-five interviews with retired and active wildlife biologists, Indigenous leaders, hunters, anglers, and trappers, naturalists, industry representatives, and wildlife conservation organizations, it will explore the ways that government, Indigenous communities, and stakeholder groups sought to shape and deliver, or responded to the consequences of, wildlife management policies and practices in the province.

The work explores a wide range of developments, including Indigenous wildlife conservation strategies, the effects of commercial hunting and fishing during the fur trade era, and the origins of wildlife conservation legislation. It follows the efforts of fish and game clubs, naturalists, and later environmental organizations to protect wildlife habitat against the rapid twentieth-century expansion of logging, mining, and hydro-electric developments, while Indigenous communities worked to assert their historical rights to wildlife and their ancestral role in managing their homeland territories. Throughout, changing public values around wildlife create a backdrop for heightened tensions surrounding land use decisions across the province. I document the efforts of individuals and organizations to broker new relationships and strategies for wildlife protection amidst evolving concerns such as introduced species, wildfire, insect outbreaks, and climate change, and chart the implications of these changes for wildlife managers today.