Good morning, Mr. Chair, and committee members.
Thank you for inviting Wildlife Habitat Canada as a witness in your study of licensed hunting and trapping in Canada. Over the next few minutes I would like to talk about wetlands, waterfowl, and the benefits they provide, including waterfowl hunting.
These are areas that are all in the federal interest and jurisdiction. ln particular, I would like to advise you on the role of Wildlife Habitat Canada, the wildlife habitat conservation stamp, the contributions that waterfowl hunters make to conservation and Canada's economy, and the evolving role of conservation NGOs in helping to implement government natural resources policy.
I'll preface my remarks by saying I have only worked with Wildlife Habitat Canada for about a year as executive director; however, I'm also drawing on about 36 years of natural resource management experience at the international, national, and provincial levels, including nine years as director of fish and wildlife, and four years as director of natural resources science and research with the Province of Ontario.
Wildlife Habitat Canada is a national non-profit charitable conservation organization. Since 1985 it has invested over $50 million supporting more than 1,500 conservation projects across Canada. In 2013-14, $1.5 million in WHC grant funds leveraged over $11.3 million in additional partner revenue, which resulted in more than 96,000 acres of wildlife habitat conserved across Canada. Conservation projects also support local and regional economies.
ln many ways, WHC was ahead of the curve when it was created over 30 years ago. Its cornerstone was that habitat conservation was the fundamental tool to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. This was at a time when most agencies were still focused on individual species and population management.
Funding to support WHC grants comes from the purchase of the Canadian wildlife habitat conservation stamp. This funding is provided through legislation and a contribution agreement with Environment Canada. The stamp, which costs $8.50, is purchased primarily by waterfowl hunters to validate their migratory game bird hunting permits.
WHC works through partnerships with communities, with landowners, governments, non-government organizations, and industry to conserve, enhance, and restore wildlife habitat. Nationally, WHC is a member of both the Green Budget Coalition and the federal hunting and angling advisory panel, as DU Canada is. We can play a strong linkage between environmental and conservation sustainable-use NGOs.
The Canadian wildlife habitat conservation stamp is often referred to as the duck stamp, which is the name that's used in the United States for their similar product, but the conservation work supported by the stamp goes well beyond waterfowl and wetlands. Water control, water quality, the conservation of ecological goods and services, biodiversity and rare, threatened, and endangered species are just some of the broader benefits supported by the stamp.
Stamp funds are earmarked for wetland, waterfowl, and benefits derived from them including waterfowl hunting, based on the three goals of the North American waterfowl management plan.
Anglers and hunters like earmarked funding. They are quite willing to contribute to conservation, but they want to know that is where their money is going.
Other examples of the use of earmarked funding in Canada include the creation of the Saskatchewan wildlife development fund in 1970, and in Ontario, the formation of the fish and wildlife special purpose account in 1995, which dedicates all fishing, hunting, and trapping licence fees and fines to fish and wildlife management, about $70 million annually.
Waterfowl hunters have a long and proud history of wildlife and habitat conservation in Canada and North America, and they're generally very supportive of the stamp because they know they are contributing directly to on-the-ground efforts in habitat conservation and stewardship.
There are two major challenges affecting WHC's ability to make conservation investments.
First, nationally, the number of waterfowl hunters has declined precipitously from over half a million in the 1980s to about 200,000 today. As an example, in Ontario the number of migratory bird hunting permits reduced from over 130,000 in 1985 to just 62,000 in 2013, whereas resident hunting licences for deer, moose, and bear all increased during that period.
Second, at $8.50, the wildlife habitat conservation stamp is still the same price as it was in 1991. As Mr. McLean mentioned last week, the hunting and angling advisory panel recently recommended to the Minister of the Environment that the price of the stamp be raised to further support WHC's conservation efforts. The U.S. has recently increased their equivalent duck stamp from $15 to $25.
Many conservation organizations rely on hunters heavily for support. For example, hunters are large supporters of conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited Canada, Delta Waterfowl, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, and—here it goes, Pierre—La Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs. All four groups, in addition to many others, receive grants from Wildlife Habitat Canada that actively support and assist with government and private conservation initiatives.
At WHC, our success in contributing and advocating for wildlife habitat conservation is directly linked to waterfowl hunting. We need to pay more attention to promoting and increasing participation in waterfowl hunting. Waterfowl hunting contributes about $327 million annually to the economy, or about 18% of the $1.8-billion figure within the Canadian nature survey. That economic contribution is not easily replaced by other nature-related activities. For example, the average waterfowl hunter spends nearly seven times the daily expenditure of a birder.
Most important for the future of conservation, hunters and trappers are participating in nature conservation activities at more than three times the national average for Canadians over 18. As you are also aware, many other NGOs are actively engaged in hunter recruitment, mostly focusing on youth hunter recruitment. While youth participation is very important, it is obvious from the demographic age distribution of Canada that it requires other strategies so as to attract older Canadians to hunting as well.
Of all the areas in natural resource management in Canada, angling and hunting recruitment is one area we know little about. Furthermore, although there is a fair bit of information in the United States, we either don't use it or don’t know about it. This is a major gap.
One thing you won't hear me talk about today is the good old days of natural resource management. I have no romantic notions about historical resource management. Natural resource management is more complicated now. There are more wicked problems, such as invasive species, climate change, mega-development of resource industries, etc., and obviously, there are more people, but having worked in natural resources since the seventies, I know that natural resources in North America have never been managed better than they are now. The science information and tools are much better. The general public is more aware and supportive of environmental priorities. People who work in conservation are as committed as ever, and they have better training and knowledge than folks like me. Also, there are better communication and educational tools.
One of the big changes I've witnessed in my career is the development of much broader partnerships for delivery of programs, none more important than the increasing role of NGOs in helping to implement government natural resources policy.
At their core, natural resources policies basically have three bits. First, they want to protect ecosystems from being damaged; second, they want to rehabilitate ecosystems that have been damaged; and third, they want to make people happy by providing some cultural, social, and economic benefits. Conservation NGOs are quite eager and capable to help implement them.
I will close by showing a cultural aspect of hunting that you may not be familiar with, and that is the linkage between hunting and wildlife art that has existed as long as the human condition. Stamps may be very small, but the U.S. duck stamp and Canada's wildlife habitat conservation stamp have had a major influence on the development and promotion of wildlife art in North America. Both countries hold a competition for their stamp image every year, and the artwork is also sold in print versions.
I brought with me today the first one, the 1985 print by world-renowned Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman. I put it on my side of the table because I figured that DU would try to auction it off if I put it on the other side.