Conservationists optimistic over David Eby’s commitments to protect BC’s biodiversity
December 11, 2022
By Chad Pawson
Land stewardship mandate letter calls for 30 per cent of BC’s land base to be protected by 2030
In mandate letters to his land stewardship and forestry ministers, BC Premier David Eby says he wants to double the amount of protected land in the province, support new Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, and move faster on recommendations around the logging of old growth trees.
They’re conservation goals advocates have been calling on for years to protect BC’s unique biodiversity, which has thousands of species at risk due to development and climate change.
“This is potentially a major leap toward protecting endangered ecosystems and the most at-risk, productive stands of old-growth forests left in BC,” said Ken Wu in a release from the Endangered Ecosystems Alliance.
Experts say protected areas help mitigate the worst effects of climate change, contribute to diversifying local economies and advance reconciliation with First Nations.
This week, Eby named his first cabinet as premier, with former energy and mines minister Bruce Ralston taking on forestry and Nathan Cullen replacing Josie Osborne as the minister for water, land and resource stewardship. The new ministry was put in place in February.
The tone of the letters appears to usher in the type of science-based, holistic approach to conservation and biodiversity in the province that people like Wu have been asking for from the BC government.
“We have seen the impacts of short-term thinking on the British Columbia land base — exhausted forests, poisoned water, and contaminated sites,” wrote Eby is his mandate letter to Cullen.
“These impacts don’t just cost the public money to clean up and rehabilitate, they threaten the ability of entire communities to thrive and succeed.”
The highlight is finding ways to partner with the federal government, First Nations, industry and communities to protect 30 per cent of BC’s landbase by 2030, including Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs).
IPCAs are lands and waters where Indigenous governments have the primary role in protecting and conserving ecosystems through Indigenous laws, governance and knowledge.
“Research shows that biodiversity thrives on Indigenous-managed lands and waters,” said Tori Ball with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, British Columbia.
Canada is committed to protecting 25 per cent of lands and 25 per cent of oceans by 2025,and 30 per cent of each by 2030.
Currently protected lands cover around 15 per cent of BC’s land base. Critics say ecological zones with the highest biodiversity are underrepresented.
Both letters also ask for the ministers to implement 14 recommendations made more than two years ago in a review of how old growth trees are logged in BC, specifically transitioning to an industry that prioritizes the health of ecosystems.
Critics say the government has so far moved too slowly on action items as old growth trees in ecologically-rich areas continue to be logged.
Cullen’s mandate letter also calls for the development of a “new conservation financing mechanism to support protection of biodiverse areas,” but does not expand on what that might be or how it would work.
BC has yet to announce matching funding from the federal government, which ear-marked $55.1 million over three years to establish a BC “Old Growth Nature Fund” in its budget earlier this year.
The Sierra Club of BC said that reaching the commitments in the letters will depend on immediacy, proper funding, and transparency over timelines and milestones.
“Without immediate change on the ground the window of action to safeguard biodiversity as we know it is rapidly closing,” said Jens Wieting with Sierra Club BC.
Read the original article