Getting the Balance Right: Improving Wildlife Habitat in British Columbia

Mike Morris Report
Strategic advice to the Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations

Mike Morris is a conservationist and the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.  Due to an increasing concern across the province regarding the loss of important wildlife habitat, Morris was requested to assess BC’s resource use and wildlife habitat management. He included forestry, mining, agriculture, range, and oil and gas in his assessment of BC’s balance between resource extraction and sustainability. In the last ten years wildlife habitat has experienced major damage due to the combination of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and the economic down turn. The combination resulted in major resource extraction in order to salvage both the resources from damaged habitats and the stability of the economy. As a result of the unavoidable damage to wildlife habitat, it is now necessary to undergo a special assessment of the condition of wildlife habitat and the required measures, including altered resource extraction policies, to recover wildlife populations and habitat quality. Mike Morris’ report is intended to provide advice on future action to recover and maintain healthy wildlife habitat while allowing for continued success by resource extraction industries. His report includes his own assessments as a seasoned wildlife practitioner as well as the knowledge from industry representatives, stakeholders, literature and others. Through his studies Morris concluded that forestry has the greatest impacts, both positive and negative, on wildlife and their habitats.

BC is host to the largest variety of fish and wildlife species of any province in Canada.  It also has the largest diversity of ecosystem types in all of Canada, with everything from temperate rainforests to semi-arid desert.  Almost 15% of the province is classified as provincial parks or protected areas, and as such, a significant portion of the province is devoted to the conservation of wilderness and wildlife habitat.

Because of the natural diversity of BC, the province also hosts a healthy natural resource economy.  Primary industries include agriculture, forestry, mining and energy. Finding the balance between resource extraction and sustainable land use is an important and challenging factor for BC’s ecologic, social, and economic success. Contributions from both government and extraction industries themselves have played a role in sustainable development. Resource industries have implemented a new practice known as independent certification which allows them to take initiative and implement their own sustainability practices.

However, despite the initiative taken by industry and the progressive mindset of the province, it is still essential to guide resource use with science, data, and analysis to ensure an overarching understanding of all variables, including ecosystems, the economy, and society.  With out a doubt the province will continue to experience new and foreign challenges including climate change and new listed species that will require professional assessments.

In conjunction with his report, Mike Morris explains the importance of a number of current plans and strategies that are in place.  Projects like the cumulative effects assessments and the Moose mortality project are essential to BC’s success in sustainable resource use and should continue and grow throughout the province. Mike Morris’ review concluded with 5 strategic goals that he believes will be central to guaranteeing a prosperous environment and industry. First, wildlife management must consider all values, both intrinsic and extrinsic, of wildlife populations and their habitats before decisions on resource use are made. Second, all natural resource planning needs to be united in order to achieve comprehensive assessments and decision making. Third, planning should be done at the land-scape level in a way that considers all natural resources and their interconnectedness within a single area before decisions and policies are made.  Fourth, focus needs to be given to improving the current results-based management system to ensure that it provides professional and sustainable direction.  Finally, and of utmost importance, Morris strongly encourages collaboration with wildlife practitioners in wildlife and wildlife habitat management, because of their deep connection, knowledge, and understanding of the intricate workings of the natural world.

  • Source "Mike Morris. August 2015. Getting the balance right : improving wildlife habitat management in British Columbia. For Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Available at : [Accessed 03/2021]. "