With the recent changes in the provincial government Cabinet, the Conservancy wrote to Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship, on January 16, 2023 requesting that the government of BC take action on the fallow deer issue on Mayne by providing a funded solution. Here’s our letter:
To: The Honourable Nathan Cullen,
Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship
Government of British Columbia
RE: Overabundant Fallow Deer on Mayne Island.
The Mayne Island Conservancy Society (the Conservancy) would like to bring to your attention the significant damage being done to the Southern Gulf Islands’ ecosystems and biodiversity due to invasive fallow deer. The problem arose with the escape of fallow deer from a commercial enterprise on Mayne that was licensed by the provincial government in the 1990’s, and the subsequent failure of the province to exercise its responsibility to take action to deal with the problem. The Conservancy feels that sustained provincial action is now required to resolve it.
As a new minister in this portfolio, we hope that you will recognize the significance of this ecological crisis, and the threat posed to the ecologies and agricultural economies of these islands and, inevitably, Vancouver Island if it is not resolved. We have attached a copy of our recent op ed in the Times Colonist which outlines the destructive impact of overabundant fallow deer browsing on the understory of Mayne forests and the damage to farms.
Our request is that you direct your ministry to develop a plan of action to deal with the overabundant fallow deer on Mayne and that this plan be funded and implemented.
We are encouraged that your mandate letter of December 7, 2022, provides direction for protecting and enhancing B.C.’s biodiversity through implementing recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review, and the Together for Wildlife Strategy. The Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem common to the Gulf Islands is ranked at risk both globally and provincially, and as such is a high priority for protection.
The multiagency, cross government Coastal Douglas Fir and Associated Ecosystems Strategy (CDFAE) has as one of its stated goals the protection and stewardship of this ecosystem. The Conservancy has created programs that contribute to the goals of the CDFAE and to implement our mission to conserve Mayne Island ecosystems for future generations. In doing so, we incur costs and resources to protect restored areas from fallow deer browsing through the installation of fencing and the replanting of native species.
The Conservancy further recognises that there have been community efforts to raise the issue with the regional and provincial governments and these efforts have led to the implementation of special shooting permits and more recently removal of the hunting ban. However, from the perspective of protecting and sustaining an endangered ecosystem that supports the CDFAE goals, we are not seeing the kinds of provincial actions required on Mayne Island.
Simply put, the status quo is not working. None of the efforts to date have been based on any reasonable estimates of population size, distribution, or partition between the native and introduced exotic species of deer. As such, there are no measures of the efficacy of the efforts at a population level or geographic scale. These are crucial foundations to any future evidence-based plans to deal with the problem at the population level.
The Conservancy believes that it is both a fiduciary and stewardship responsibility of the provincial government to protect provincially designated ecosystems at risk, and to apply rigorous methods to reduce or eliminate human-caused threats to those ecosystems. We feel that this responsibility extends to funding and implementing sustained, evidence-based solutions to control the fallow deer problem.
We look forward to your timely response and action on this issue.
President, Mayne Island Conservancy Society
Honourable David Eby, Premier
Honourable Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food
Adam Olsen, MLA, Saanich North and the Islands
Jeanine Dodds, Trustee for Mayne Island, Islands Trust
David Maude, Trustee for Mayne Island, Islands Trust
Paul Brent, Director, Southern Gulf Island Electoral Area, CRD
attached: Mayne Conservancy op ed Times Colonist