January 26, 2004
Hon Nathan Cullen Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship PO Box 9012 Stn Prov. Govt. Victoria, BC V8M 9L6
Via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Nathan Cullen,
re: Draft BC Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Framework
This letter forms my response to the Draft Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Framework, November 2023.
My comments are provided in two categories: General Comments and Specific Comments.
General Comments address major issues inherent in the Draft Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Framework (the Framework). Dealing with these issues underpins the success or failure of the Framework.
Specific Comments are directed to the text of the Framework. Addressing these comments will improve the Framework, but not necessarily ensure its success in the absence of addressing the issues described in General Comments.
The British Columbia government as represented by the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship is to be complemented for the forward-thinking Statement of Intent that begins the Framework:
The British Columbia government commits to the conservation and management of ecosystem health and biodiversity as an overarching priority and will formalize this priority through legislation and other enabling tools that apply to, and can be accessed by, all sectors.
The Framework is built on the foundation of upholding and enabling the articles set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the requirements of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act). This foundation supports three pillars:
Taking a whole-of-government approach that demonstrates vision, leadership, and integration: including setting ecosystem health and biodiversity objectives and standards that apply across sectors, and integrating and aligning provincial government decision- making, policies, processes, and legislation that affect ecosystems.
Fostering and supporting a broader whole-of-society approach that facilitates actions and initiatives by individuals, organizations, private sector, governments, and communities to conserve and manage ecosystem health and biodiversity and to advance sustainable communities and economies.
Adopting an open and transparent process through evaluation, reporting, continuous collective learning, and adaptive management.
The core drivers of success are working together to maintain and enhance biodiversity, ecological integrity, and their overall resilience to ensure the coexistence of healthy ecosystems and human communities and economies in B.C. for current and future generations.
This is the first time in BC history that objectives for protection of ecosystem health and biodiversity have been put ahead of objectives for resource exploitation and extraction. In that way, this is the first time in BC that a path to ecological and cultural sustainability has been adopted.
This is an excellent start towards a responsible, reciprocal relationship with Nature — the foundation for ecological and cultural sustainability. However, implementation of this new relationship is a complex undertaking that reverses an approach to natural ecosystems designed to exploit their resources and redesign their character to suit short-term human desires. Throughout the history of British Columbia, legislation, education, and research, indeed the overall modus operandi for most of society, have and continue to support this short-term approach of exploitation and extraction of “natural resources” found in ecosystems.
Thus, “taking a whole-of-government approach” and “fostering and supporting a broader whole-of- society approach” pose many challenges that could derail the implementation of the Framework. Most of these challenges are not described in the Framework, and I encourage the BC government to incorporate them in the Framework, and to give these challenges priority in both revising and implementing the Framework.
Challenges and Solutions
1. Control of Ecosystems and Resources — Tenure
Under current BC legislation, regulations, and policy the management and conservation of ecosystems, outside of parks and other protected areas, is controlled by private entities, primarily industrial resource extraction corporations. These corporations function under legislation that grants them virtually sole control over the resources furnished by the ecosystems within their tenure area. This control is strengthened by the policy of professional reliance whereby the way that corporations relate to biodiversity and ecosystem health is determined by “qualified professionals” in the employ of the corporation. While this arrangement is a clear conflict of interest, professional reliance suits both the aims of resource extraction corporations and the BC government.
To effectively implement the Framework, tenure rights for industrial corporations need to be abolished. In their place, an accountable public agency needs to be established to implement precautionary, ecosystem-based standards for protection and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem health. This public agency would be established and co- managed by representatives of Indigenous governments and the Provincial government. The “Office of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health” proposed in the Framework would play the role of this accountable public agency. However, their work would only be effective if tenure held by industrial corporations and the policy of professional reliance are abolished.
2. Urgency to Protect Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health — Legislation Ahead of Revision of Framework
Due to decades of extraction of natural resources from ecosystems across British Columbia, loss of biodiversity continues to grow, as ecosystem health declines. Thus, there is an urgency to implement the objectives and structures outlined in the draft Framework. The points raised in the Framework indicate that we know enough to change. Therefore, rather than revising the Framework before implementing legislation to protect biodiversity and ecosystem health, we need to enact appropriate legislation now.
Development of legislation with the requirement for protection of biodiversity and ecosystem health across all government ministries and sectors of society needs to be the next step in development of the goals and objectives of the Framework. Important aspects of this legislation include:
scientifically based, peer-reviewed definitions of biological diversity and ecosystem health. These definitions are readily available in scientific literature.
precautionary definitions of biological diversity and ecosystem health. There is a need to incorporate a precautionary approach to err on the side of protection of the integrity of ecosystems, as opposed to exploitation.
definition of ecosystem-based management. The legislation will specify ecosystem- based management as the primary tool to protect biodiversity and ecosystem health during human activities. Like the definitions above, the definition of ecosystem-based management will incorporate a precautionary approach. (see Addendum 1)
protection for threatened and endangered species and their habitat, including old growth forests and other primary forests.
establish the Office of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health to administer the requirements of this legislation. This agency would be co-developed and co-managed by representatives of Indigenous governments and the BC government.
I wish to emphasize the importance of establishing the legislation described above, as opposed to continuing to revise the Framework through ongoing public consultation. Such consultation will be much better served by the development of clear, comprehensive, precautionary legislation designed to protect biodiversity and ecosystem health. This is what a “whole of society” approach to implementing an “overarching priority for ecosystem health and biodiversity” looks like in action. Following this approach of legislation, rather than continued consultation on the Framework will also provide for important education of the civil service and the public in the requirements for protection of biodiversity and ecosystem health.
3. Interim Protection
While new legislation is developed, and changes to existing legislation are put in place, there is a need to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitat, old growth forests, and other primary forests, as well as the ecological integrity of ecosystems across BC. In addition, interim protection needs to replace activities that severely degrade ecosystem health, like clear-cut logging and fracking for oil and gas, with activities that provide for protection of ecosystem health. Activities aimed at restoring ecosystem health may accompany activities that protect ecosystem health, particularly in areas where ecosystem health has been significantly degraded.
Interim protection measures may be seen as a way to evaluate various aspects of protection of biodiversity and ecosystem health being developed for incorporation in overarching legislation.
Specific Comments are referenced by page number in the Framework. These comments need to be incorporated into BC legislation and policy to achieve protection of biodiversity and ecosystem health.
Climate change resiliency, indeed ecological resilience in general requires the maintenance of natural character, i.e. natural ecosystem composition, structure, and function. This needs to be clearly stated, as it forms the basis for protection of biodiversity and ecosystem health. (pg ii)
“A holistic approach to stewarding BCs land and water resources, ensuring that they are healthy and resilient for the long term” requires application of an important hierarchal relationship between ecosystems, cultures, and economies. Stated simply, economies are part of human cultures and human cultures are part of ecosystems. Given this relationship, protection of the natural character of ecosystems provides for healthy, resilient human cultures that include diverse economies focused on people’s needs. This vital hierarchal relationship needs to be clearly stated in the Framework. (pg ii)
“The Framework promotes an inclusive, partnership-based approach...through networks, governance structures...planning tables, forums, agreements and co-operation.” Under today’s legislation and policies that govern land management activities, structures like planning tables and cooperative planning initiatives ignore the reality that people involved in these types of collaboration have significantly different levels of political and legal power. For the framework to work the legal and political power of participants needs to be balanced. How does the BC government intend to provide for this balance? (pg iii)
The Framework proposes to develop ways to protect biodiversity and ecosystem health “that is [are] adaptable to diverse ecosystems, cultures, and ways of approaching stewardship across the province.” While that is a laudable objective, it needs to be achieved in ways that do not compromise protection of biodiversity and ecosystem health in order to achieve the goals of local stewardship initiatives. (pg iii)
The “whole-of-society approach” is the second pillar under the “foundation of upholding and enabling the articles set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the requirements of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act)” for the Framework. The whole-of-society approach needs to recognize the hierarchy explained in 2 above, particularly as it relates to “sustainable communities and economies”. (pg 1)
Under the heading, Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity in BC, the Framework states, “The health of an ecosystem can be evaluated by the degree to which it maintains biodiversity and other ecosystem benefits.” This statement would be more in line with scientific descriptions of biodiversity and ecosystem health if it stated, “The health of an ecosystem can be evaluated by the degree to which it maintains indigenous biodiversity and natural ecosystem composition, structure, and function.” (pg 2)
Key terms are defined in the Framework. There are a few additions to these definitions which would improve their meaning for protection of biodiversity and ecosystem health.
a) Ecological Integrity: add to the definition “natural ecosystem composition, structure, and
function are the foundation for ecological integrity.”
b) Ecological Resilience: specify “maintaining natural or inherent ecosystem composition,
structures, functions, and processes.”
c) Adaptive Management: need to specify that adaptive management may be either active or passive. The definition needs to briefly explain the difference between these two methods of adaptive management. (pg 3)
The Famework states: “Ecosystem-based management (EBM) will be an important management approach to achieve this which looks to concurrently manage for ecological integrity and human well-being... there will continue to be areas of more intensive development to accommodate population growth and increasing demands for food, fiber, and energy.”
This definition of EBM looks a lot like current management practices that are degrading biodiversity and ecosystem health. “Areas of more intensive development” end up being sacrifice zones for biodiversity and ecosystem health. These “sacrifice zones,” where biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystem health are accepted ways of management, ignore that these areas are connected to, and interdependent with the landscapes around them. Sacrifice zones cause the landscapes around them to suffer loss of biodiversity and ecosystem health. If the Framework is to provide for protection of biodiversity and ecosystem health on a “whole landscape, whole ecosystem” basis sacrifice zones need to be excluded and a precautionary definition of EBM needs to be provided.
Addendum 1 to this letter describes Nature-Directed Stewardship (NDS), which is an approach to our relationship with ecosystems that truly places protection of biodiversity and ecosystem health ahead of exploitation and extraction of “natural resources.” Sacrifice zones are not included in NDS.
A key aspect of a principled, ecosystem-centric approach to our relationship with ecosystems includes the establishment of networks of ecological reserves at multiple spatial scales. Step 3 in the description of Nature-Directed Stewardship (Addendum 1) identifies establishment of ecological reserves at multiple spatial scales as an important part of NDS.
To be effective in the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem health EBM needs to be defined in the Framework, legislation, and policy using the philosophy, principles, and process for Nature- Directed Stewardship provided in Addendum 1. (pg 4)
The Framework calls for a shift from “managing commodities” to “enhanced production potential for ecosystem goods and services.”
Ecosystems function to maintain the integrity and resilience of the whole ecosystem, and do not focus on the production of any one aspect of ecosystem benefits, i.e. “goods and services.” Therefore, the idea of “enhancing” ecosystem “production” is a false concept.
Attempting to “enhance” ecosystems often leads to loss of biodiversity and ecosystem health. Methods used in enhancement of ecosystems remove essential composition, structure, and/or function that are necessary to maintain resilient ecosystems. Therefore, the concept of “enhancing ecosystems” needs to be removed from the Framework. (pg 5)
Under the section entitled Desired Outcomes the Framework suggests that “Advances [to] reconciliation” includes the “right to harvest.” The concept of right to harvest needs to be defined so that it does not include status quo timber management, like that practised in many joint ventures between First Nations, timber companies, and the Province. (pg 5)
“Resilient communities and economies” are a desired outcome by applying the Framework. “Diverse and ecologically sustainable local, regional, and provincial economies” are the desired outcome. There is a need for the Framework to define what an ecologically sustainable economy means. Such an economy is based on the protection and maintenance, and where necessary, the restoration of natural ecosystem composition, structure, and function. Applying this definition of an ecologically sustainable economy will provide for the development of economies that protect biodiversity and ecosystem health. (pg 6)
As specified in the Framework, Pillar 2: Fostering and supporting a broader whole-of-society approach includes “supporting sustainable and stable natural resource sectors that continue to be a source of good jobs and economic security for communities” as a way to provide for “economic security for communities.” Currently, this objective of Pillar 2 does not exist, and will not occur under the current forest tenure system. The tenure system needs to be abolished to achieve this objective. (see General Comment 1, above) (pg 9)
To achieve the goals of the Framework through an Open and Transparent Process (Pillar 3), there is a need to establish a “State of Ecosystems” inventory that documents the current condition of ecosystems across BC. The inventory needs to be field-based, and accurately represent the current condition of biological diversity and ecosystem health across the Province. The inventory will provide a baseline measurement from which future conditions of biological diversity and ecosystem health may be compared to the current situation. If protection of biological diversity and ecosystem health is to fulfil the goal of a new paradigm for relating to ecosystems in BC, regular inventories will need to be required as part of legislation and policy to enable evaluation of how well biological diversity and ecosystem health is being protected. These inventories will form the basis for public reporting “on the state of ecosystem health and biodiversity and progress in implementing the Framework.” (pg10)
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the “Draft BC Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Framework.” I look forward to hearing how my comments will be incorporated in future legislation and policy, and/or iterations of the Framework.
As a show of good faith, I encourage you to move directly to development of legislation and policy for the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem health, rather than continuing to revise the Framework. Following this path will ensure the public that the BC government will implement the Framework, as opposed to the Framework becoming a “talking point,” while biodiversity and ecosystem health continue to decline.
General Description Nature-Directed Stewardship Plans
Herb Hammond October 28, 2022
Foundation of Nature-Directed Stewardship:
Nature-Directed Stewardship (“NDS”) is a system of ecosystem protection, maintenance, restoration, and human use. Through networks of ecological reserves, ecosystem integrity and biodiversity are protected at multiple spatial scales, while providing for kincentric, Earth-centred human use of ecosystems. The priority in NDS is to maintain (or restore) natural ecological integrity — including biological diversity — across the full range of spatial (from very large to very small areas) and temporal (from short to long periods of time) scales. The second priority is to provide for balanced human and non-human uses across spatial and temporal scales. Within human culture, NDS facilitates the development of ecologically based, diverse, steady state community economies.
Nature-Directed Stewardship (NDS) envisions people living as a respectful part of the ecosystems that sustain us and practicing reciprocity with those ecosystems. NDS plans and actions are inclusive of the needs of all beings, all our relations. In this vision, ecosystems are seen as identities to be respected, not objects to be dominated—wisdom passed down by Indigenous elders and knowledge holders across Canada and elsewhere in the world. What people acquire from a kincentric relationship are clean air, pure water, climate moderation, healthy food and shelter, meaningful work, and respectful relationships with each other and Earth. NDS provides for well-being, while asking little from the ecosystems that provide for well-being. Ecosystems are selfless—an important lesson for our species.
General Process for Nature-Directed Stewardship Plans
This description of the process proceeds in the order of the steps below. However, as the process develops there are iterative relationships between the steps to improve understanding and interpretations.
Describe Character of Ecosystem: how the natural system works by describing the composition, structure, and function. Character includes modifications to ecosystems by Indigenous management systems but does not include development activities by industrial societies.
Describe Condition of Ecosystems: how the activities of industrial societies have impacted the natural character of ecosystems. This step highlights areas for protection and identifies areas for ecological restoration.
Define Ecosystem Patterns and Processes: identifies ecological limits and identifies the boundaries and constraints for ecologically sustainable human activities.
Design What to Leave: networks of ecological reserves and networks of ecological restoration at multiple spatial scales. Ecological reserves include progressively finer networks of protected ecosystems. Protected Areas and linkages are the broadest scale network of reserves, followed by Protected Landscape Networks at the medium and small watershed scale, while the finest scale of reserves is Protected Ecosystem Networks at the site or patch scale.
Determine What to Use and How to Use It: Amongst the networks of ecological reserves and networks of ecological restoration, Human Use Areas are designated that respect the reserve networks and activities are designed within ecological limits. Restoration Areas constitute a type of human use area. Together, human use areas and restoration areas provide the foundation for diverse, community-based economies that function within the natural limits of Nature.
Interpretive maps are developed for each step based upon Indigenous knowledge and appropriate Western science. Interpretive maps provide a practical, user-friendly way to reach the goals of each step. The interpretive maps developed for the four steps above provide a Nature-Directed Stewardship Plan map set, which is the core of a Nature-Directed Stewardship Plan. Interpretive maps are unique to each community and ecological landscape where plans are developed.