Set aside your differences, B.C. leaders, to protect nature. We have.

The Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Coalition penned an op-ed about protecting fish wildlife and habitat in our province. The op-ed was published in the Vancouver Sun. Read the op-ed below.

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Vancouver, BC. May 19, 2022. Opinion: Interest groups from different sectors across the province agree it’s time elected officials from all parties step up to protect more of our lands and waters

The abundance of fish and wildlife in B.C. – creatures large and small, iconic and obscure, common and rare – has dwindled to scarcity in less than a single human lifetime. 

We now have endangered steelhead and caribou flirting with extinction, along with record low populations of salmon, moose, mountain sheep and mule deer. In fact, 782 plants and animals are at risk of being lost forever in B.C.

At a time like this, half-measures are not enough. We need to protect species before they get to the point where they are listed as threatened or endangered.

When the provincial government established a new ministry called Land, Water and Resource Stewardship earlier this year, it probably didn’t expect the name to immediately spill into popular usage under the acronym Land WaRs. The government no doubt finds this initialism regrettable, but we come in peace with an appetite to work together.

We are a diverse array of nature-lovers that includes environmental groups, hunters, fishers, butterfly enthusiasts, guide outfitters, tourism associations, and wildlife watchers from across B.C. Together, we represent 25 organizations.

We represent more than 273,000 British Columbians who agree that B.C.’s natural environment is in crisis.

Biodiversity is the backbone that our economy, health, and climate resiliency is built upon.  That means we all need to change our ways and that includes radically changing the way our government manages the natural assets we all share and hope to pass on to future generations.

The provincial government claims that over 19 percent of our province is protected. We agree that most of that, 15.5 percent, is indeed protected. But the province is trying to include another 4 percent where it allows mining and oil and gas extraction to occur or where the so-called protection is easily moved when it’s inconvenient.

According to the international and Canadian standards that B.C. has adopted, harmful industrial activities must be prohibited in all areas set aside for conservation. 

B.C. also uses Wildlife Habitat Areas to designate some of the most important habitats in the province for species such as spotted owl, caribou and grizzly bears. And while there are some restrictions related to forestry, there is no protection from the impacts of mines, oil wells, pipelines, roads, or wind farms.

Does that sound like enough protection to you? It doesn’t for all us who are passionate about protecting nature.  It doesn’t for the 1,000 nature-based businesses we represent that depend on B.C.’s abundant wildlife for their life and livelihood.

Fish and Wildlife decisions should not be made by the Ministry of Forests, which has a culture that has for so long treated fish, wildlife and habitat as constraints on timber objectives.

We hope the new ministry will take a more coordinated approach to protecting plants and animals, to help species at risk recover.

Creating a new ministry is no guarantee the government will make good on its commitments to protect habitat and species at risk, but we hope our leaders will take the opportunity to do so.

The stakes are only going to get higher. Last year’s heat dome killed more than one billion marine animals. The pressures on our lands and waters – both from people and climate impacts – are getting more and more intense. 

Ultimately, the province needs to protect more of its lands and waters. Putting aside its over-estimations, 15.5 per cent of the province is protected. Poll after poll has shown an overwhelming support for the local and global movements to increase protected areas.  Canada has signed on to international protection targets for land and water of 25 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.  B.C. is absent on these targets, but could and likely should meet and exceed them

Regardless of age, gender, location, or political affiliation, B.C. residents express strong support for nature.

A recent Nanos Research poll showed that the overwhelming majority of British Columbians want government to do far more work with communities and indigenous peoples to protect the environment. Seventy per cent of respondents said they would be more likely to support a government that adopted the goal of protecting 30 per cent of Canada’s lands and waters by 2030. More than 68 per cent said that better protecting wilderness is one of the best ways Canada can fight climate change.

We have set aside any differences we have in order to stop this crisis from worsening. It’s time for elected officials from all parties to do the same and step up for fish, wildlife and habitat.

Tori Ball, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, B.C. Chapter, with the support of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, Wildsight, Guide-Outfitters Association of B.C., and the Commercial Bear Viewing Association.

Tori Ball, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – BC, 

John Bergenske, Wildsight, 

Scott Ellis, Guide-Outfitters of BC, 

Katherine MacRae, Commercial Bear Viewing Association, 

Jesse Zeman, BC Wildlife Federation,

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