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B.C. government failing to protect biodiversity: auditor general report

February 21, 2013 Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun

The B.C. government is failing badly at protecting “Canada’s most biologically diverse province,” a report released Thursday by the province’s auditor general concludes.

The report found the government has not completed establishing wildlife habitat areas for 36 of the 85 species it identifies as at risk from forest and range activities. And 40 per cent of those designated are for grizzly bears, which means that a “large portion of government’s efforts” have been dedicated to one species, the report noted.

No “fisheries sensitive watersheds” have been designated since 2007 due to “limited funding and uncertainty about what constitutes a watershed being sensitive,” the report found, adding “without designation of these areas, significant fish habitats may be declining.”

Canada signed the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity in 1992, following it up in 1995 with the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, a requirement of which included public reporting of progress. The report noted that the B.C. government supported both of these initiatives but has reported only once, in 1996.

The report concludes there are “significant gaps” in B.C.’s understanding of biodiversity, saying the government does not know the effect of its conservation efforts and is “not adequately measuring and reporting on its progress” on maintaining biodiversity.

The auditor general stresses the importance of biodiversity to all, saying it is “often compared to the health of the environment, and ultimately affects human well-being by supplying us with food, water, air, soil, and medicines.” Auditor General John Doyle said in a statement: “Habitat preservation is critical to the conservation of biodiversity and government’s lack of implementation and monitoring is troubling.”

The report says two ministries are primarily responsible for maintaining B.C.’s biodiversity: Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, headed by minister Steve Thomson; and Environment, headed by minister Terry Lake.

In an interview from Victoria, Lake suggested the report “had a pretty limited scope” compared with the totality of government efforts, including continuing land-protection efforts. The province has established a natural resources board with senior representation of all the “dirt-based ministries” leading to “far more co-ordination than there used to be,” he said.

“We obviously must develop resources in a sustainable way,” he added. “But there is always the struggle between conservation and extracting wealth that helps every British Columbian.”

The government’s response to the auditor general’s criticism, also published in the report, noted that 37 per cent of B.C.’s land base has one or more biodiversity conservation designation, although the actual level of protection varies in each.

Because “field-data collection is increasingly expensive,” the province said it is important to be strategic, citing recent investments in species and ecosystems inventories in B.C.’s northeast, a current hot spot for natural resource development. “The complex nature of biodiversity means that we will never have a definitive picture of the status of biodiversity, nor will we definitively understand all of the causal factors that influence that status,” the province said.

NDP environment critic Rob Fleming said the audit exposes 12 years of Liberal government inaction on biodiversity. “Very little has been done to protect rare species from extinction and to manage B.C.’s land base competently.”

The report recommends the government should:

• Commit long-term to collect sufficient and reliable information about the status of biodiversity in B.C.

• Review its legislative framework to ensure that any significant gaps or barriers to conservation of biodiversity are addressed.

• Assign responsibilities and timelines for conservation actions.

• Monitor the effectiveness of government actions, and report periodically to the legislature and the public.

West Coast Environmental Law said B.C.’s laws and policies are “hardwired” for failure. Jessica Clogg, the organization’s executive director, said conservation efforts are stymied by “gaps and barriers such as caps on allowable protection, loopholes and exemptions in how land-use plans” are legalized, and failure to address the realities of climate change.

August 8, 2020 British Columbia’s looming extinction crisis

Canada’s westernmost province markets itself as 'Super, Natural, B.C.,' but more than 2,000 species of animals and plants are at risk of disappearing — and unlike six other provinces, B.C. still has no endangered species law, despite the NDP's election promise to introduce one.

Read more: https://thenarwhal.ca/bc-extinction-crisis/

Visit our Nature/Human Impact page

Visit  Wilderness Committee BC Endangered Species Legislation