Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is the variety of living things on Earth. Worldwide biodiversity is declining and BC is no exception. The list of species at risk in BC keeps growing.
Species at risk is a term that encompasses all wildlife that are endangered, threatened or of special concern and if action isn’t taken to reverse their decline, could become extinct.
The greatest biodiversity in the country exists in the lands now called BC, but also the highest number of species at risk. The vast majority of species at risk living on non-federal land, 94 per cent of the land base in BC, lack protection from being harmed or having their habitat destroyed.
Climate change and old-growth logging are hot political topics thanks to activists doing an incredible job demanding answers and action from decision-makers. But somehow, wildlife protection isn’t at the top of mind for those decision-makers. You can change that. Get involved with the movement to protect biodiversity in BC.
- JOIN THE MOVEMENT: Get the biodiversity crisis on your MLA’s radar
From the Vancouver Island marmot to southern mountain caribou species at risk are left to fend for themselves against logging, oil and gas activities, mining, climate change, toxic contamination and urban sprawl.
Today, more than 1,900 species and subspecies are at risk of disappearing from our province. That number will grow unless BC prioritizes biodiversity in all its plans and policies affecting the land.
One solution is to create a biodiversity law that protects species at risk in BC
Saving endangered species is possible. So is preventing them from becoming endangered in the first place. In fact, wildlife are incredibly resilient and can rebound if they get a chance. Two of the biggest drivers of extinction are habitat loss and direct exploitation like hunting. Both of these are directly within our control to change. If we create a law that halts habitat destruction and limits the harmful exploitation of endangered species, they can recover.
The Wilderness Committee has advocated strongly in the past that BC needs an endangered species law.
In 2017, Premier John Horgan told Environment Minister George Heyman in his mandate letter to enact endangered species legislation for BC. They failed to do this and the NDP government backed out of this promise in 2019 amid racist backlash to caribou recovery efforts. This was despite conducting stakeholder meetings the Wilderness Committee attended along with industry, hunters, recreational users and the BC government to discuss what this law should look like. They’d also begun consultation with Indigenous Peoples.
Since then the BC government undertook an Old-growth Strategic Review and committed to a paradigm shift in the woods. BC agreed to implement all of the recommendations including legislation that legally establishes ecosystem health and biodiversity as a priority. This is an opportunity to finally get species at risk legal protection through a biodiversity law.
We’re still strongly advocating for these eight guidelines in order for the law to be strong and effective:
- It must enshrine Indigenous rights and sovereignty in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and be co-developed with Indigenous Nations
- Climate change must be considered a real threat and accounted for in the recovery and action plan phase for species at risk.
- Protection of habitat: as soon as a species is found to be at risk, all of the known occupied habitats must be protected while further recovery plans are underway. This way, the species will receive the habitat protection they need right away in order to hold them over until more complex recovery plans have been made.
- A separate board to review applications for permits and exemptions that pose a serious conservation risk. Granting high-risk permits to harm a species at risk should not be left to the minister and cabinet to decide. These high-risk permits need to go through a high-level process where a separate board reviews and makes decisions on whether or not to give permits to harm a species at risk.
- Mandatory and strict deadlines: starting from the legal listing of a species to the recovery plan, then the action plan, and finally to on-the-ground action, all steps must have mandatory deadlines for completion.
- Cumulative impacts: when cumulative impacts are high, the recovery measures must be maximized and the highest level of precaution should be applied.
- Review the effectiveness of action plans every three years and adjust as necessary. If an action plan is not proving to be effective then adjustments must be made.
- It must establish a stewardship fund to promote the preservation of species at risk habitat on private lands.
If you’re looking for educational materials on species at risk in BC, check out our CONSERVATION IN ACTION: An Educator's Guide to Species at Risk in BC for Grades 8-12, an inquiry-based curriculum resource that can be integrated into a variety of classes for BC secondary schools. In partnership with teachers, wildlife biologists and curriculum specialists, we developed the resource to introduce endangered species-related issues using real-world activities and problem-solving tools. This is a great opportunity to connect students with nature.
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A stroll in the wild heightens your senses. You may find yourself unearthing lost feelings of connection to the land that have been suppressed for over 12,000 years. Wildlife helps close the gap between modern societies and the ecosystems we’ve come to dominate and disconnect from. As species disappear, we lose this connection. Being in the forest may no longer present the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of caribou or a fox and its kits. It’s devastating but that’s where we’re headed.