The West Coast will not have a WildSafeBC program this year.
The program provides training for a local coordinator to help reduce human wildlife conflicts in their communities through education and outreach.
The Coast has enjoyed a regional Pacific Rim WildSafe program operating between Tofino and Ucluelet with funding from the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust for the past two years but that partnership ended this year.
Ucluelet applied for the program on it’s own while Tofino chose not to apply.
Tofino CAO Bob MacPherson told the Westerly News his staff received no direction from Tofino’s municipal council to apply.
Ucluelet’s application was denied.
Provincial WildSafeBC Coordinator Frank Ritcey told the Westerly WildSafeBC received $275,000 from the provincial government to offer 2016’s programming and this wasn’t enough to cover every community that applied.
“The province does not have limitless funding so we have to try to allocate it as equitably as we can and, some years, we just aren’t able to service everyone,” he said.
“We’re, sort of, a victim of our success in that every year the program’s been growing and it gets tough to get the funding to meet the demand.”
He hopes to see the province allocate more dollars to WildSafeBC next year so that more communities can participate.
“From that $275,000, we get from the province, we will be running a program this year that’s probably going to approach $700,000 in value,” he said.
“We’re trying to get a new funding model from the provincial government to try to get more ministries involved in the funding of the program…Those negotiations are going on right now.”
In order to participate, communities must apply each year and commit at least $3,000 for a local program. If their application is approved, WildSafeBC kicks in roughly $11,000 worth of wage subsidies, training and materials for a local WildSafe coordinator, according to Ritcey.
“Ucluelet on it’s own had come up with the $3,000 but, the issue wasn’t your contribution, it was our ability…We did not have enough to fund every community that applied,” he said.
“We did make overtures to them to do a reduced a program and see if we could get a Canada Summer Job student in, at least part time, and we did not hear back from them so, consequently, we didn’t get a program going.”
He said all applications are judged by a scoring matrix that determines which communities get funding and Ucluelet’s application was hurt by the fact that the community had not applied outside of the regional Pacific Rim program before.
“The biggest part of the program is if you had a program running in your area. If you were supporting a program the year before, then you rank higher,” he said.
“We also look at what initiatives the community has done on its own in terms of reducing human wildlife conflict and those all go into this decision making matrix that we have and from that we get a ranking and then we go down the list based on how much money we can give out.”
He confirmed a regional Pacific Rim application, continuing the past two year’s of efforts, would have been stronger than Ucluelet’s individual application.
“I’m not saying it would have been enough to get you in…It would have ranked you higher,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate in that the way Ucluelet came into this, this year, is they were applying on their own as a separate community as opposed to being a part of that Pacific Rim application.”
He said other communities that didn’t do well on the scoring matrix were still able to offer local WildSafe programming by bringing more money to the table.
“We’ve done that in a number of communities before where people really want the program,” he said. “We try to work a deal whenever we can so that we can get any type of a program started.”
He suggested it would likely cost at least $8,000 for the West Coast to fund its own program and the actual amount would likely be higher because of the specialized training needed.
“We’ve already gone through our training sessions so that would increase the cost because we would have to put on a special training session for the program,” he said.
“That’s a big part of our program. We want to make sure our coordinators have consistent messaging throughout the province.”
He said the now-former Pacific Rim WildSafe program was a solid one that focused on reducing unsecured garbage on the West Coast.
“The primary thing is garbage. It’s that simple. Teaching people about managing their garbage; you get that done and the rest of it sort of takes care of itself,” he said.
“There was also the issue with wolves and dogs off-leash. Dogs off-leash are a big issue everywhere.”
He said convincing people to secure their waste and leash their dogs is a tough task that requires consistent messaging.
“People don’t believe it until it happens to them. They say, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ve never had a bear in my garbage, so what’s the problem? They don’t really believe you until there is a bear in their garbage,” he said.
“People are resistant to change. That’s why we want the longevity of a program, so that people hear the message over and over again.”
He hopes to see WildSafeBC return to the West Coast next year.“We would make every effort to get them in,” he said. “I’m hopeful, if not confident, that we will have more funding.”
WildSafeBC has about 27 coordinators working with roughly 100 communities.
Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly News she was disappointed to hear the community’s WildSafe application had been denied.
She assured Ucluelet’s decision to apply for the program on its own rather than regionally carried no malice towards Tofino.
“Certainly there was no conscious decision to go without Tofino. We just have lots of our own conversations around wildlife and lots of our own challenges so we put forward what we thought was a really good program,” she said adding Ucluelet and Tofino’s councils did not discuss a regional application this year.
“We’re certainly not opposed to partnerships or collaboration but, having said that, both communities have specific challenges.”
She said Ucluelet would not be able to foot an $8,000 bill to self-fund a local WildSafe program.
“We can’t do that at this time because our budget is already done and past,” she said.
“For a smaller amount, there’s some flexibility or, if it’s an emergency situation, there’s some flexibility but I don’t think there’s $8,000 to free up from anywhere.”