A Provincial Land Acquisition Fund will allow for purchasing and protecting BC’s most endangered ecosystems on private lands to sustain wildlife, clean water, recreation, and tourism.
Many of BC’s most endangered and biologically rich ecosystems, including ancient forests, are found on private lands, which make up 5% of BC’s land base. These endangered ecosystems include Coastal Douglas-fir and Dry Maritime forests on BC’s southern coast; Ponderosa Pine forests, grasslands, and “pocket desert” in BC’s Interior; wetlands, and deciduous forests along many of BC’s largest river valleys; and many other important habitats.
These private lands are important First Nations cultural and resource sites and support large concentrations of endangered species, important scenery, clean water, wild salmon habitat, drinking watersheds, the climate, and first-rate recreational opportunities. Yet, many are under threat from logging, real estate, or other developments.
Currently, the burden of purchasing and protecting private land typically falls on local or regional governments, private land trusts, or community groups to raise the money. While important, these efforts are simply unable to raise funds fast enough to buy all the endangered private lands in BC that are at risk.
That’s why we’re calling on the BC government to establish a dedicated $70 million Provincial Land Acquisition Fund. This funding would amount to 0.1% of the provincial budget and would generate significant financial returns for the province. Studies have shown that for every $1 invested by the BC government in our parks system, another $9 is generated in the provincial economy through tourism revenues.
Ideally, this $70 million annual fund should increase by $10 million/year until the fund reaches at least $100 million/year. The fund should be used to systematically purchase private lands of high conservation, scenic, cultural, and recreational value and be designated as Indigenous Protected Areas.
Since our establishment more than ten years ago, the AFA has been working hard to ensure old-growth forests on private lands receive the protection they deserve. In March 2022, we finally saw some of these rare and at-risk forests set aside from logging when Mosaic Forest Management, the largest private landowner in British Columbia, deferred 40,000 hectares (400 square kilometres) of old-growth and older second-growth stands from logging on their private lands for the next 25 years via a carbon credit program.
These deferrals include McLaughlin Ridge, Cameron Valley Ancient Forest, Cathedral Grove Canyon, lands adjacent to MacMillan Provincial Park (Cathedral Grove), Mossy Maple Grove, key ancient spruce stands in the Lower Gordon Valley and San Juan Valleys near Port Renfrew, and more.
These are old-growth forests we’ve fought for years to keep standing. Now, the long-term deferrals will ensure they remain standing until they can be purchased and permanently protected, which could be accomplished with the help of a Provincial Land Acquisition Fund.
For more details, read this 2015 report*, prepared for the AFA by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, which proposes justification for creating a Provincial Land Acquisition Fund and suggests a variety of possible funding mechanisms.
*Note that the 2015 report calls for a $40 million fund, but this has been increased to reflect inflation.