The Wilderness Committee sent out the following news release in response to Minister Nathan Cullen's announcement:
New BC biodiversity framework positive but law to protect species is needed
Long-delayed legislation and lack of new interim measures mean harm to wildlife continues
VICTORIA / UNCEDED LEKWUNGEN TERRITORIES — The BC NDP government released a long-anticipated draft framework on biodiversity and ecosystem health for First Nations and public consultation today; it’s a step towards a final plan to prioritize ecosystems in all legislation for all sectors in the province. The Wilderness Committee welcomes this potentially significant measure toward addressing gaps in B.C.’s environmental laws. The group warns, however, that these draft frameworks, plans and consultations are all happening while habitat is being destroyed and species are being pushed toward extinction.
“We need a law to protect species and ecosystems that are at risk,” said Conservation and Policy Campaigner Charlotte Dawe. “The longer government delays on delivering a law, the harder it will be to tackle the biodiversity crisis and its devastating impacts in B.C., especially with no immediate interim measures to safeguard the most vulnerable ecosystems and species.”
The Wilderness Committee is reviewing and assessing the draft framework but is initially happy to see the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems will be prioritized above resource extraction and other development across all sectors and ministries and that this will be reflected in legislation co-developed with First Nations titleholders.
The organization is concerned the lack of a specific commitment to an overarching law to protect species and their habitats means it could be left out. The vague framing of “ecosystem health” leaves the door open for logging, mining and oil and gas projects that destroy or degrade habitat and threaten biodiversity.
Following a 2017 campaign promise to enact endangered species legislation, the BC government launched a consultation process and engaged stakeholders across all sectors before walking away from the commitment in 2018.
“We’ve been on this ride with this government before, and we know logging and mining companies will again be lobbying hard to protect the status quo,” Dawe said. “The BC NDP is promising to do better, promising this time will be different, but they need to put this framework into action and truly put biodiversity ahead of corporate interests.”
The Wilderness Committee has been advocating for a law to protect species at risk in B.C. for more than two decades. Tens of thousands of people have called on the provincial government to pass this legislation. The group says a strong law would be enforceable, free of loopholes, account for cumulative effects on at-risk species and respect the sovereignty of Indigenous titleholders. The timeline released by the government today states an implementation plan will be released along with the finalized framework next spring. The Wilderness Committee expects to hear concrete steps the government will take to implement a new law then.
The draft framework released today is a result of the Old Growth Strategic Review, which included prioritizing ecosystem health and biodiversity as the second recommendation in its groundbreaking report in 2020.
“The old-growth review recommendations had a three-year timeline — those three years are gone, and the BC NDP is only just now releasing a draft framework to make biodiversity and ecosystems a priority,” said Associate Director Torrance Coste. “These delays have deadly consequences, and species like the spotted owl and southern mountain caribou are being pushed to the brink of extinction while the government continues to ‘talk and log.’”
The Wilderness Committee will be preparing its submissions in the coming weeks. It will continue to work with other organizations, First Nations and the public to push for a strong law to protect species and ecosystems across the province.