Our priorities 2018 – 2021
Current Priorities 2019
Forest Practices for Forest Resilience
In the 1980s and early 1990s forests in BC were under a global microscope, and as BC developed its original forest practices framework there was extensive consultation around how to ensure BC’s forest management was “the best in the world”. What emerged were the principles of ‘managing within the natural range’, ‘managing for connectivity’, and ‘keeping representative old forest and ecosystems’.
However, only small portions of these principles were ever implemented, and today the current state of public forests and grassland ecosystems reflects these short-comings: large parts of BC’s forests have been ecologically and economically degraded, with greatly reduced biodiversity, cultural values for Indigenous peoples, timber supply and carbon stock. In addition, the climate crisis causes additional pressure that has not been acknowledged in policy resulting in:
- increased disturbances such as droughts, flooding, and landslides, both large and small scale;
- increased wildfire risk; and
- attempted regrowth of forest on many sites under new and increasing climate extremes.
Current forest policy and logging practices exacerbate these impacts in many places.
Management of old forests remains BC’s primary strategy to maintain both the unique values associated with BC’s old forests and the biodiversity (species, ecosystems and processes) that characterizes super natural British Columbia. Yet BC’s forest management approach sets targets far below natural levels (and then doesn’t meet them in many areas of the province), does not manage for the rarest and most sensitive ecosystems, and does not prioritize responding to climate change.
BC must modernize the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) to ensure operational planning and forest practices maintain and where necessary restore healthy, fully functioning forest ecosystems that can support ecological, cultural and community resiliency. Specific changes needed are detailed in this joint submission from more than 30 environmental groups to government on reforming FRPA to put forests, not timber, first.
Joint submission from 33 environmental groups in response to the Discussion Paper, Forest and Range Practices Act, Improvement Initiative: Renewal and Resilience
Endangered Species Protection
Despite having some of the richest wildlife in North America, and more endangered species than any other province or territory, British Columbia is one of only two provinces in Canada without an endangered species law. It was an election commitment of the new government to change that. Public consultation was done in 2018, and OFC worked with allies (including several non-OFC organizations) to ensure government heard this new law must:
- Protect the habitat of at-risk species and the ecosystems they need to recover them to a healthy state;
- Include interim habitat protection so that species and ecosystems do not continue to decline before recovery plans are completed and implemented;
- Be proactive – it is easier and less expensive to recover species before they’re threatened or endangered; and
- Recognize the inherent value of species and ecosystems, and the critical role healthy ecosystems play in supporting healthy human societies and economies.
Eleven conservation groups submitted joint principles that would inform a meaningful law to safeguard the web of life as we know it in British Columbia, and give our species at risk a path to recovery. However, there’s been very little more said about the process towards a new law since that consultation process, and time is running out to meet this commitment within the current mandate.
Science-based, expedited protection for species and ecosystems was never more urgent than it is today, in light of ongoing habitat destruction and the accelerating impacts of global warming. We call on the BC government to ensure the new law is the best (most protective) biodiversity protection law in the country.
Climate Target Accountability
BC may have had the best of intentions to show leadership in stopping runaway climate change, but failed to achieve its 2016 target. In setting new targets for 2030, the legislation introduced in May 2018 also scrapped the 2020 target all together.
This is why we were so delighted to see, on page 53 of the new CleanBC plan to reduce BC’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, commitment to an improved climate accountability framework based on “transparent, forward-looking and independent public reporting”. This appears to include most of our key asks, including:
- Robust planning and reporting requirements;
- An independent climate body; and
- Shorter-term targets or carbon budgets.
But the proof is in the pudding: the intention is to implement these reforms through amendments to the Climate Change Accountability Act, expected in fall 2019, with important details to follow in regulations in 2020.
Learning from the more successful track records in GHG reductions achieved by countries such as Sweden and the UK, planning around carbon budgets as the centerpiece of a transparent and robust climate accountability framework is the tried and true path to take. And we don’t need to start from scratch – BC’s reduction targets, biennial progress reporting, and the Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council provide a solid foundation. Together with best practices from UK, Swedish, Australian (Victoria), German, and recent New Zealand (still in process) laws, this framework should establish enforceable carbon budgets, mechanisms for planning in accordance with the budgets, and an independent advisory body to ensure progress towards the budgets.
Recommended requirements to ensure a strong accountability framework include:
- Interim carbon budgets and sectoral targets that cap the total GHG emissions that are available to “spend” over a 5-year or shorter time period;
- Planning mechanisms including clear allocation of responsibility across Ministries for achieving budgets, requirements that environmental assessments and other authorizations of GHG emissions be consistent with carbon budgets, and corrective plans to enact when the province is not on track to meet targets;
- Independent monitoring and verification of government progress towards achieving budgets.
- A periodic review of targets to ensure that they are aligned with the best available science.
[For more detail on what we’ll be looking for in a legislated climate accountability framework see this joint letter to Premier Horgan from 28 BC organizations.]
As well, CleanBC outlined a range of policies and tools that, if well-implemented, will get us 75% of the way to our 2030 emissions reduction target. It recognized the remaining 25% gap and committed to detail the remaining measures necessary to get 100% of the way to our target within “18-24 months”, which would be the end of 2020 at the latest. With this priority we will also be looking for the bold measures needed to close this gap, and launch us into the next phase of planning to meet our 2040 target.
We call on the BC government to legislate a science-based, transparent and enforceable accountability framework to support its CleanBC strategy, and to close the policy gap to achieve our 2030 target.
Recovering Grizzlies in Southwest BC
Human activities have steadily eroded grizzly bear range in North America since the 1800s when the great bear roamed as far south as central Mexico. Today southern BC represents the line in the sand where we can finally end two centuries of shrinking grizzly bear range.
The latest International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) global assessment of grizzly/brown bear populations identified 11 Critically Endangered populations, three of which are in Canada, all in southwest B.C.: Stein-Nahatlatch, Fountain Valley-Hat Creek, and North Cascades.
Southwest B.C.’s grizzly bears are at risk from the combined effects of habitat loss and fragmentation (mainly by B.C.’s enormous resource roads network) including genetic and demographic isolation, poaching, and human caused mortalities related to poor management of garbage and other attractants and conflicts involving livestock.
Yet efforts to safeguard grizzlies have languished for years. The BC Auditor General’s 2017 Audit of Grizzly Bear Management in B.C. rightly identified “human activities that degrade grizzly bear habitat” as the greatest threat to grizzly bears.
Fortunately, there is broad agreement that action is necessary. Several regional First Nations have led through example (with programs dedicated to grizzly recovery in their territories) and with explicit calls for government action. Land use plans completed for the Sea to Sky region, Okanagan-Shuswap, and Lillooet (draft) have all included provisions for grizzly bear recovery. The 2017 Auditor General’s report on grizzly bear management recommended identifying, and taking action on, populations in need of recovery, and the B.C. government accepted all the Auditor General’s recommendations.
While there is a commitment to developing recovery plans for grizzlies in this region, there is a risk we could lose some of these populations while planning is underway, they’re that close to the edge of viability. But with a few straightforward, key actions, the B.C. government could help ensure the grizzly’s future in the region until the comprehensive plans are implemented. Interim actions consist primarily of strategically managing motorized access in grizzly habitat, transplanting a small number of bears to prevent further inbreeding, and identifying and restoring or enhancing food production sites.
We call on the B.C. government to work in partnership with First Nations and environmental organizations to implement necessary actions quickly enough to ensure there are still grizzlies in southwest BC that are able to benefit from recovery plans once they’re completed.
Next-Generation Environmental Assessment for BC
In the summer of 2017, the new provincial government promised to reform environmental assessment and planning in British Columbia. This commitment put BC at the doorstep of a major opportunity to transform the way we assess and plan for development activities in the province, in order to better align provincial decisions with the exercise of jurisdiction by Indigenous nations, the needs of ecosystems and the vision of BC communities.
A range of environmental, social justice, and community groups have developed “A vision for next-generation environmental assessment in British Columbia” (the Vision document) as a standard against which to measure BC’s proposed reforms.
BC’s discussion paper on how to fix the province’s environmental assessment (EA) process is now out for public review and comment, until July 30th. The discussion paper outlines some positive approaches, which reflect recommendations in the Vision document, such as new proposals to honour the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, conduct regional assessments, and improve opportunities for early public engagement.
However, a comparison with the Vision document indicates that BC’s proposals for EA reform must be strengthened in key areas, in particular by:
- Ensuring independent evidence and oversight of assessments;
- Providing more meaningful public participation and participant funding;
- Addressing cumulative effects within a region, through more project assessments and mandatory regional assessments; and
- Ensuring projects that don’t meet important legal criteria – including a climate test and Indigenous consent – are rejected.
We call on the BC government to pass new assessment legislation that reflects the Vision for next generation EA in BC, in order to ensure an informed, transparent and accountable assessment process that furthers sustainability, advances reconciliation and involves the public in decisions that affect their communities.
Public comment is open until July 30th: Have your say on the future of environmental assessment in BC!
There is growing evidence that in order to protect wild salmon, marine mammals, other species and their habitats, BC needs to get open-net fish farms out of our waters. Fortunately, there are more and more examples of new closed-containment facilities all the time.
Recent developments in late 2017 and early 2018 have converged to create an unprecedented opportunity for change in BC salmon farm operations:
- Washington State banned salmon farming following a catastrophic escape of Atlantic salmon; BC is now the only west coast jurisdiction that allows open-net farming, and the province already has a moratorium on BC’s north coast;
- a graphic video of virus-infected, blood-water discharging from a farmed salmon processing facility off Vancouver Island made international news;
- new science has emerged indicating that salmon farm viruses can cause disease in chinook salmon and impede wild salmon migrations; and
- a scathing Auditor General’s report was released on the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mismanagement of salmon farming risk to wild salmon.
In response, the BC government announced the formation of a Wild Salmon Advisory Council to provide guidance on protecting wild salmon. As well, the province announced that, by 2022, it will only grant tenures for fish farms who can show that their operations will not harm wild salmon stocks, and who have agreements with local First Nation(s).
This is a significant step towards defending wild salmon against the threats posed by open net-pen salmon farms, as well as a positive step towards reconciliation with First Nations. But four years is a long time for stocks already in crisis, and the measures only apply to the minority of farms whose tenures expire by 2022.
The BC government also formalized a joint decision-making process with First Nations for Broughton Archipelago fish farm tenures, where First Nations have been resistant to farms in their territories. The ‘Namgis, Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations are working with the province to develop consensus recommendations regarding salmon aquaculture in their territories, and all have committed to do so by late September 2018.
Through this work we urge the province to work with First Nations for a speedy removal of open-net farms out of salmon migration routes in the Broughton.