The Convention on Biological Diversity conference (COP15) is underway in Montreal this week. Countries from across the world are gathering to negotiate a new Global Biodiversity Framework that will set the stage for global action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
Globally, wildlife populations have plummeted nearly 70 per cent in the last 50 years. Across Canada, habitat loss and fragmentation, industrial pressure, and climate change are all impacting wildlife populations. The Kootenay region is no different. We are witnessing historic declines in wildlife populations. Five local mountain caribou herds have been extirpated (locally extinct) in the last 10 years due to habitat loss. Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats have experienced significant declines in their numbers and songbird populations are in free fall.
This is truly a case of thinking globally and acting locally, decisions at these international conferences can drive opportunities in our backyard. That is why we are here at COP15, to advocate for strong commitments and action plans to protect wildlife, water and connected wild places. The Columbia Basin is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife and habitats that are critical for continental wildlife connectivity. Protection and stewardship of these special places, like the cedar hemlock forests of the Inland Temperate Rainforest or the Southern Rocky Mountain Wildlife Corridor, will be driven by the Nations and communities that make this region the incredible place that it is.
Scientists agree that we need a minimum of 30% protection for our lands and waters to reverse species loss and recover both species and habitats.
Canada has already committed to protecting 30% of our lands and waters, and Indigenous communities are leading the way in realizing new models of land protection and stewardship that preserve ecological and cultural values.
Many Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) have been declared by Indigenous communities across BC. The Qat’muk IPCA that protects the Jumbo Valley and surrounding area in the Central Purcells is a model of nature protection driven by traditional and scientific knowledge.
Canadians agree we’re facing a tipping point, and that protected areas and Indigenous-led conservation can play an important role in climate action by helping to prevent biodiversity loss, support a sustainable economy, and enhance our mental and physical well-being. British Columbia, Canada’s most biodiverse province, had been notably absent from these global commitments until yesterday’s commitment in the Ministry of Water, Lands and Resource Stewardship’s mandate letter to Minister Cullen.
I am hoping to see BC support — through funding, legal frameworks and time — Indigenous communities in developing Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) as part of this commitment. Premier Eby has an opportunity to set BC on a new path to protecting the wildlife, waters and lands that define British Columbia.