Mountview Elementary School student Mia John-Stillas prepares to release a salmon fry into Williams Lake River at Scout Island last month, two days after Salmonind Enhancement Program co-ordinator Sue Hemphill was told by Fisheries and Oceans Canada her contract to deliver the program is being cancelled and will not be renewed. Fortunately the federal government has reversal its decision to axe a fishhabitat restoration program.

Public pressure reverses cuts to ocean rescue and school programs

Meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans

Resources that protect personal safety and fish on the Pacific were restored in Ottawa last week with the announcement the federal government will reverse unpopular cuts to ocean search and rescue services and educational programs that teach children how to be stewards of wild salmon.

“British Columbians depend on these programs and the proposed cuts were just wrong-headed,” Nathan Cullen said from Ottawa this morning.

“Good equipment, specialized staff and properly funded rescue programs save lives on the coast, it’s that simple,” Cullen said. “Cuts to these resources would have seriously impacted our BC communities.”

Cullen also acknowledged the rollback on proposed cuts to the Salmon Enhancement Program, which includes the popular Salmonids in the Classroom program the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has funded in BC schools for 40 years to teach children to become aquatic stewards.

“This program is incredibly important in helping to teach children about the value of wild salmon to First Nations culture and to BC’s entire economy so that students can help protect our precious resource for future generations.”

Ranchers applaud reversal

The association representing ranchers in B.C. is applauding the federal government’s swift reversal on a plan to axe a fish habitat restoration program.

Last month, the Trudeau government said it would eliminate the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) resource restoration programs in the province, a move criticized by conservationists, First Nations and ranchers.

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative MP Cathy McLeod came out against the cuts. On Thursday, she learned, during a committee meeting in the House of Commons, the government would seek savings elsewhere.

“They announced they’d restore all the programs,” McLeod told KTW.

While the MP applauded the move, she called its quiet announcement and reversal a month later “very bizarre.”

The B.C. Cattlemen’s Association was among groups critical of the move. The program provides education in schools, hatchery enhancement and work on the ground in stream restoration on private lands.

“I’ve never seen a decision reversed so quickly in all my life,” association general manager Kevin Boon said. “They must have realized its importance.”

The program sees planning and other resources made available to ranchers for stream restoration on their lands. Boon said it is critical in helping fish habitat and to preserve land after flood events, for example.

“For all the years for it to be cancelled, this would be the worst,” said Boon, referring to flood waters in a number of small streams in the Interior this spring.

“You don’t fix this damage overnight — it will be years.”

McLeod said the announcement by Terry Beech, parliamentary secretary for the DFO, was accompanied by a vow to find saving elsewhere within the ministry.

“That leaves an unanswered question in terms of what they’ll do with other changes,” she said.

– files from press releases