In November 2023, British Columbia released its draft Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Framework. The framework lays out the province’s vision to overhaul the current system of land and water management, replacing it instead with a new paradigm that prioritizes biodiversity and ecosystem health across all areas of government.
This framework will guide the development of new policies and legislation, such as a law to protect B.C.’s most at-risk species. The draft framework is open to comments until January 31, 2024. During this feedback period, your voice will be crucial in urging the government to turn its promises into transformative change.
You can send a quick, pre-written letter using the button below. Or, use the points in this article to craft your own message and send it to email@example.com
Why do we need a Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Framework?
B.C. contains more species and ecosystem types than any other province or territory in Canada. Yet, over 1900 of those species are at risk of extinction. Without dedicated legislation to protect these plants and animals, more biodiversity loss will occur. The population of B.C. is growing, placing increasing pressures on our natural resources and wild places. Old growth forests, which are critical to maintaining biodiversity, continue to be logged. And, underscoring all this, climate change is fundamentally changing our natural world. Business as usual is not an option.
In 2020, the authors of the Old Growth Strategic Review recommended that forests in B.C. needed to be better managed. As we know, forests are more than just resources to be extracted: they provide us with clean air, filter our water, give us places in which to recreate, and are often sacred spaces. The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Framework is a response to the OGSR recommendation, but instead of focusing on forests, extends to all ecosystems across the province.
The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Framework has the potential to transform how B.C. addresses the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity. The commitments within it could finally start to resolve the significant gaps in legislation and policy that have left species and ecosystems vulnerable. The key words here are ‘potential’ and ‘could’.
Points to consider for a stronger framework
The power of this document will depend upon how it is implemented. We should expect to see milestone dates and measurable objectives for interim measures, and longer-term commitments like enacting legislation. Protecting and conserving the natural world must be done in a manner that respects and engages Indigenous rights, jurisdiction, laws and knowledge. This framework is a step in the right direction. To translate promises into reality, it is vital we communicate our strong support for immediate, tangible actions that prioritize ecosystem health and biodiversity. The follow points highlight elements of the framework or its implementation that will be vital to its success.
We need a commitment to new legislation
B.C. must follow through on its commitment to co-develop a new Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Law with First Nations. Through this law, B.C. needs to make species and ecosystems a priority in all government decisions.
Collaboration with Indigenous people must be explicit
The framework has some impressive language such as upholding and enabling the articles within UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) and DRIPA (Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act). Emphasizing Indigenous sovereignty and knowledge should not just be a commitment in the framework; it must also be explicit within the implementation plan. Our current Western approach to protecting and conserving the natural world must change to incorporate respect for Indigenous rights, jurisdiction, laws and knowledge.
Creating an office to prioritize biodiversity
A critically important pillar of the framework is the creation of the Office of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health as an interim measure. This office would operate in parallel to the office of the Chief Forester; it would be responsible for ensuring that ecosystem health and biodiversity are prioritized across the province. It needs sufficient staffing, funding and authority over natural resource decision makers to be able to carry out its mandates. We are asking that the office is created by this spring.
Shifting the paradigm across all sectors of government
The framework also commits to taking a whole-of-government approach, prioritizing biodiversity and ecosystem health across all sectors and aligning policies, processes and legislation that affects ecosystems. This whole-of-government approach must be adopted immediately so no more irreplaceable species and ecosystems are lost. We need the government to ensure that biodiversity and ecosystem health are prioritized at current land use planning tables.
To prevent further losses, interim actions are essential
We expect to see a final framework and implementation plan by spring 2024. In the interim, there must be immediate guidance to planning tables to prioritize biodiversity and ecosystem health in all decisions and measures to protect the most at-risk species and ecosystems in real-time. There must also be clear milestones with measurable objectives and associated timelines.