BC is the most biodiverse province in Canada. It’s also one of the last provinces with no specific legislation to protect species and habitats. The result is a long list of endangered species and ecosystems — some of which are on the brink of collapse.
In 2020, the authors of the Old Growth Strategic Review recommended a broader solution than species at risk legislation and one that addresses the true root of the problem: a transformational shift that makes ecosystem resiliency the priority in all resource management decisions.
Now in 2023, the provincial government is showing signs of acting to protect biodiversity. We have seen the signs in Premier David Eby’s mandate letters to his new ministers, such as ‘implementing the Old Growth Strategic Review’s recommendations’, ‘protect wildlife and species at risk’ and ‘achieve 30% of land and water protection by 2030’. But here is the big one: the Province pledges to co-develop a BC declaration and laws to prioritize biodiversity and ecosystem health in land management.
This is the transformational shift that is required, with no time to delay. The declaration must be released in the coming months and laws are needed to ensure the declaration holds weight.
For too long, BC has placed natural resource development and economic growth before healthy ecosystems; the impacts of this are cumulative. Since 2014, seven mountain caribou herds in the Kootenay and Columbia regions have been functionally extirpated (locally extinct). Impacts of climate change are far-reaching and far from understood as we enter into unprecedented weather events. Permits for activities like mining, logging and road building are often approved in isolation without taking into account the collective effects. By declaring a provincial priority to manage the land for ecosystem health now, we are increasing the possibility that British Columbia will have healthy forests, ecosystems, water quality, fish and wildlife into the future.
Without a law to protect species and ecosystems, BC relies on a patchwork of unsatisfactory protections. While 15% of BC’s landscape is within protected areas, the more biodiverse valley bottoms are greatly underrepresented.
The federal Species at Risk Act has limited abilities within the province, primarily protecting species within the boundaries of national parks, military reserves and post offices. BC’s Forest and Range Practices Act limits some forestry activity in Wildlife Habitat Areas but not those of mining. The Forest and Range Practices Act, up until February 15, 2023, went as far to state that wildlife and biodiversity conservation should not ‘unduly impact timber supply’.
The NDP has 2 years left before another election to develop the declaration and necessary legislation that would transform how land management decisions are made. Our government’s recent announcements show that they are ready to reel in a new era – one that puts wild places, wildlife, and water first in land management decision-making. Pushback from industry is imminent, so it is crucial that we stand together now and show the BC government our support to develop legislation that will put ecosystems first.
Let the BC government know you stand for healthy ecosystems and our incredible biodiversity. Let the BC government know you stand for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health laws!