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Heart of the City: David Lewis has his heart in hunting and fishing

Shooting for wildlife conservation and ecology protection
David Lewis has been harvesting wildlife for sustenance for many years. On Sept. 19 he said, as a conservationist, he has deep concerns about the degradation of wildlife habitats affecting the food chain. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

If there are three pieces of advice David Lewis, president of the BC Wildlife Federation, Region 6, could give to those who enjoy nature and conservation, they would be: Be careful when crossing rivers with ATV’s because too many salmon spawning beds are being ripped up, especially in the Hays and Oldfield Creek areas.

“You’ll find a lot of spots where people have been four-wheeling. It’s the destruction of the habitat and is detrimental to the next cycle of fish, or the next generation,” he said. “This is a local issue that is actually affecting our local salmon population.”

“Secondly, when you are off the road and in the bush, leave it the way you found it. Take out what you brought in. Also, with the issues of wildfires, make sure if you have a fire that you clean up, Make sure your fire is out before you ever walk away from it.”

Lewis has been involved with conservation and angling since his dad first took him fishing at four years old. The hunting and wildlife came later. His first exposure to firearms was when he was nine years old. He lives and breathes conservation and wildlife. It even adorns his living room walls.

Growing up in Ontario, David spent winters fishing on the ice of the northern lakes in -40 c weather. The family moved to Nova Scotia, where his education with wildlife started.

“I had a lot of experiences out there being around game and fish. It’s just something my dad brought me up to do,” he told The Northern View.

He fondly recalls learning to ocean fish. Unknown to his mom, his dad would sometimes work weekends and place David on the pier fishing, where he could watch him from his office window. His dad would come down at lunch and fish for a bit, heading back to work after.

While his mom spent her youth growing up around fishing, she would never allow the processing of their catches or hunts to happen in her kitchen or even in her house.

“It’s funny,” David said.”Anything we harvested, we ate. She was even out with the prawn traps once. She loves to eat it. She absolutely loves it. She’s the first one at the table. But it’s just not done under her nose.”

“She says, don’t process it in my house. Go outside. But, have me for the first meal,” he laughed.

From the time David was in his early 20s, he was involved with hatcheries around the Saugeen area in Ontario, and that continued until he and his wife Marie moved to Prince Rupert in 2007. A year later, he became involved with Prince Rupert Rod and Gun Club, of which he is now a board of director.

David said with the influence and friendship of Ken Franzen, he became more involved with issues, and his awareness grew from attending meetings. He eventually became the chair of the Prince Rupert Sport Fishing Advisory Committee.

From there, his involvement branches out to several committees, including the ground shellfish working group and the halibut working group.

“We just worked with the DFO to change the regulations a week or so ago, which was when the small halibut went up to three fish a day.”

The outdoorsman has been chair for the regional BC Wildlife Federation for more than ten years, and as time went has gone on his involvement in the wildlife sector has become more progressed.

A genuine guy, David is grateful for his teachers, like Mike Langegger, a conservationist from Kitimat, and Mike O’Neil from Prince Rupert, who has since passed away.

“They all worked with me and did a lot of mentoring, teaching and working together. From there, I eventually became chair of the Northwest Fish and Wildlife Conservation Association, which I have been for three to four years now.”

Region 6, which he looks after, is just over 25 per cent of the province.

“So the basic provincial issues we look after would be fishing, hunting, and sports shooting. Under that are access issues and working with the First Nations. Another big issue we deal with is conservation.”

“So locally … there’s always moose issues. Declining habitat, which has had an effect. Glysophate spraying which is destroying habitat,” he said, explaining that the chemical is a pesticide used in forestry.

The logging practice of spraying such a compound raises his concerns because it removes the hardwood that acts as fire barriers and the willows that provide food for the ungulates. The trees that are being replanted for financial gain are not the broadleaf variety that assists the environment.

“So, you’ve lost the food. You’ve lost the undergrowth, which feeds your whole food source. And you’re poisoning the environment,” he said.

“It is a big issue here because you’ve got a huge logging resource, and the habitat for moose is being taken out,” he said. “As well when the logging roads are created, you’ve now created a highway for bears, wolves and predators, making it easier for them to move around. Nothing grows. Nothing grows properly.”

David said that if there isn’t growth at the bottom of the food chain, nothing to the top of the chain eats properly.

“It’s people, it’s animals, it’s bugs, fish, you’re into that same issue with the glyphosates and generational issues, health issues, which then affect everybody that’s out there fishing, hunting for sustenance. As well as affecting the ability for the animals to survive. They’ve lost their habitat. They’ve lost their food source.”

David said it is definitely a big balancing act between resource extraction, preserving habitat and leaving enough habitat suitable for wildlife expansion.

“At the end of the day, we want to see more fish in the water, more animals on the ground and more birds in the air. That is the measure of success, with that abundance, that’s when everyone is able to make the best use of the resource, like First Nations, [people like me and wildlife colleagues], and many others in this part of the work that hunt and fish for sustenance.

“We need to respect the environment we’re in and the animals that are in it,” the conservationist said, adding if he has the choice, he will eat what he harvests rather than what can be purchased in a store. He has learned to butcher his own game, from birds to moose to caribou and deer.

Throughout his life, he has learned growing respect for the land and wilderness. He goes on hunting trips as often as he can, sometimes four times a year for up to ten days with someone he trusts.

“You have to trust the person that you’re with. You have to trust them with your life. You know you don’t want to be out there with your enemy. It’s building camaraderie. Any trip like that is a success. The bonus is if we harvest an animal and put food on the table. Not every trip has a harvest.”

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K-J Millar | Journalist
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