A study prepared for Sierra Club BC and the Wilderness Committee by Jared Hobbs, director of J Hobbs Ecological Consulting Ltd.
Rare and at-risk species have always engendered empathy within our society. Perhaps it’s because the suggestion of rarity implies value but, in a biological context, there is often an additional and far more insightful consideration. Many threatened and endangered wildlife species in Canada were, in fact, once quite common; the factors that have negatively influenced their previous abundance have often been brought about by a litany of human-wrought changes to the environment. In BC, many of these changes are relatively recent or still underway. Rare and at-risk species convey a message of a dysfunctional ecosystem that needs immediate attention to arrest or reverse species’ declines; through their own demise these species are signaling that they need our help.
Within BC’s borders commercial forestry, agriculture, mining, urban settlement, and road-development have all left a troubling legacy on the landscape. Before European influence, the BC coastline supported a rich temperate rainforest ecosystem: rivers teemed with salmon and in the upper headwaters of the rivers that carve their way through rugged coast mountains tailed frogs were once common in clear, cool fast-flowing streams. The ancient forests that once lined the valley slopes supported many ancient-growth forest inhabitants including marbled murrelets, spotted owls, coastal giant salamanders, and grizzly bears. As you moved inland, you would have encountered a rich grassland ecosystem, with tall prairie grasses swaying in the wind along the benches of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers. Further east, along the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, pocket-desert ecosystems once supported pygmy short-horned lizard, burrowing owls, white-tailed jackrabbits, and greater sage grouse; today these species have all been extirpated from BC, their habitat plowed under for the sake of development — in many cases simply to grow grapes for our dining pleasure. Some species, such as the western rattlesnake, American badgers, white-headed woodpecker, and bighorn sheep still maintain a tenuous and diminishing presence in the Interior of BC as they bear witness to the loss of their habitat. Moving further inland, and northwards, you would have encountered mountains and valleys that supported grizzly bear, caribou, and wood bison; today these species all have much smaller ranges in North America, and their numbers continue to dwindle.
This report on recovery actions provides a review of policy and policy implementation by both the federal and BC provincial governments. Specifically, the content of this report focuses on recovery management and planning, and profiles some of the inherent challenges experienced by both levels of government in the implementation of actions that have been advanced in the interest of recovery of species-at-risk.