Current Issues

Conservation Committee Report for BC Nature Magazine

Summer 2019

Ever wonder about scale, as in, what’s a little and what’s a lot? Efforts to save little populations, such as the Southern Resident Orcas, mountain caribou, and many plants and animals in the south Okanagan may mean a lot because these populations represent unique gene pools. The right 17% of lands and fresh water and the 10% of marine areas that Canada targets for protection might be a lot, but the wrong choices for what gets protected might be a little. Another version of scaling applies to species protection; government calls it scalable protection. They use this concept, for example, to apply to the Southern Resident Orcas. Low protection level means little intervention, whereas high protection means exclusion of human activity. The compromises to find an appropriate protection level on the scale is what all the webinars and inputs and discussions are about. Sometimes there’s no scalable protection obvious, as with Roberts Bank Terminal 2. Our current BC government is proceeding with very open, consultative processes on a number of environmental fronts, which will lead to actions selected from a scale of options. I wonder if this democratic process will serve the future of humans, other organisms, and habitats.

Find postings of conservation correspondence and replies on the BCN website under “conservation”. Since the last issue of BC Nature Magazine, BCN made submissions to government and/or attended meetings, about

  • Mining in the Upper Skagit
  • Rodenticides
  • Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2)
  • Southern Resident Killer Whales
  • The BC Caribou Recovery Strategy

 Mining in the Upper Skagit

Bev Ramey and BC Nature responded to the Ministry of Energy and Mines regarding Imperial Metal’s application for mineral exploration in the Skagit-Manning “donut hole” on April 8.  BC Nature expressed our objection to mining exploration or development in this highly sensitive area. In the event of the exploration proceeding, we wish to make certain that this exploration conforms to very stringent environmental controls so as to minimize impact on the watershed.  We have previously expressed our opposition to the logging occurring in this area; our goal is to ensure protection of the entire Skagit Watershed.

Rodenticides

Committee member Anita den Dikken followed up with Delta City Council. Delta has instructed its pest control contractor to discontinue using anti-coagulant based rodenticides at facilities bordering field habitat, and will update its website on rodent control methodology. We also received responses to BC Nature submissions from Catherine McKenna and George Heyman (see the BC Nature website at https://www.bcnature.ca/conservation/letters-sentrecd/).

 Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2)

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority maintains that even enhancing existing port facilities will not manage future demand, underscoring the need for T2. They state that the total number of container ships will not change; only that the size of the ships will increase. The Delta Optimist (March 15) quoted BC Nature’s objections to the project (see our report in the Spring BC Nature Magazine). To quote past-president Alan Burger: “BC Nature’s special representative on Roberts Bank, Roger Emsley, has worked tirelessly for many years to inform politicians, bureaucrats and the public on the value of this sensitive area. Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is pushing hard to get their port expansion approved, even though the economics are dubious and the environmental impacts horrendous. Scientists from Environment Canada have released reports showing that shorebird populations will be greatly impacted. Now there is evidence that opinions of government scientists are being muzzled in Ottawa – a serious situation.” The independent federal review panel gathering information and feedback on the Port of Vancouver’s Terminal 2 application to build the three-berth container terminal on an artificial island at Roberts Bank will begin on May 14. A number of submissions from BC Nature and its members will be received. You can view submissions at https://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/evaluations/document/exploration/80054?type=4&culture=en-CA

Southern Resident Orcas

On March 8th, Minister of Fisheries Jonathan Wilkinson announced that the University of British Columbia, among others, will receive $2.9 million in funding for scientific research that includes the Southern Resident Killer Whale. Peter attended a Fisheries and Oceans webinar that consisted of reading initial draft proposals that everyone already had. While still under consultation and with some disparity of opionions, there appears to be much consensus on routes to protective measures. Technical Working Groups reported upon progress on assessing prey availability, sanctuaries, commercial vessel noise, general vessel noise, and contaminants, including potential measures to achieve their goals. If you wish details, email pjballin@mac.com and I will send you the two PDF’s that I received.

The BC Caribou Recovery Strategy

As always, Joan Snyder makes sure that BC Nature voices our opinion on issues caribou. She attended a community engagement session in Nelson, sharing information on the draft recovery agreements, answering questions, and providing comments, especially about the Central Selkirk Caribou Herd. She also completed a questionnaire to the government. For information on the draft recovery agreement, sread this, BC Nature will have voted on a resolution on Wells Gray Mountain Caribou, submitted by Nancy Flood and Gary Hunt of the Kamloops Naturalist Club, to apply the precautionary principle and take all necessary steps to halt timber harvesting in the range of both the Wells Gray Park South and the Wells Gray Park North herds. While wolf depredation appears to be the main proximal cause of mountain caribou decline, habitat disruption due to logging and road building, which leads to easy access to caribou habitat for wolves and recreationists, appears to be the fundamental cause for the problems that caribou face.

Liquefied Natural Gas

The Director of Corporate Affairs for LNG Canada delivered a detailed 8-page response to our recent submission to Premier Horgan. She addressed the issues of global warming, fracking, effects of shipping, and destruction of wetlands. She defended our governments plans, including citing stringent regulations and the carbon emissions savings compared to other LNG sources, and the replacement of coal-fired plants in China. You may be interested in reading her letter at https://www.bcnature.ca/conservation/letters-sentrecd/. Apparently the LNG project planned for Barkley Sound near Bamfield has been put on hold.

Herring

Ian McAllister, son of committee member Peter McAllister, said, among other things, “We really should be leaving this fish in the water … This is basis for the food supply of the entire Salish Sea, the basis of our coastal economy, and yet we’re turning this wild herring into fish farm pellets and cat food. This fishery should not ever have been allowed.” The Tyee: https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2019/03/18/BC-Herring-War-Salish-Sea/. And he said it directly (and bravely) to the fishermen. The herring roe fishery went ahead this year, the only one of its kind on the west coast due to conservation concerns. Don’t know if they got their 20,000 tonnes, or what the consequences will be.

Improving Wildlife Management and Habitat Conservation in BC

The BC government published summaries of the 2018 engagement activities with stakeholders, citizens, and Indigenous nations. You can find them here, including BC Nature’s, under Stakeholder Submissions: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/bcspeciesatrisk/what-we-heard/  This spring they anticipate release of a discussion paper containing draft proposals on key themes.

 Glyphosphate Spraying in Forests

In spite of long-time questioning about the wisdom of applying this herbicide, found in Roundup, its government-mandated use continues. The application of this herbicide gives the marketable conifers a competitive advantage. Glyphosate retards the growth of broad leaved trees, among other plants, that provide critical breeding habitat for neotropical migrant birds. The Conservation Committee will produce a position letter in the near future.

Salmon and Steelhead

With leadership from Frank Dwyer of the Kamloops Naturalists’ Club, the committee is refining BC Nature’s position and recommendations regarding endangerment of salmonid stocks. Some people just eat salmon, but we have six species in the genus Oncorynchus, including the steelhead, which is an ocean-going rainbow trout. Unlike the other five species, steelhead return to the sea after spawning (they used to be considered in the same genus as Atlantic salmon because of that habit).

Some more conservation news picks..

 Wolf Kill

Ian McAllister voiced his concern about the consideration an expansion of the government wolf cull to augment deer populations on Vancouver Island. He maintains that no evidence suggests that the unique coastal wolves kill large numbers of deer.

 In Ottawa

In early April Nature Canada sponsored incoming BC Nature President Kees Vissar on a brief trip to Ottawa to meet with government officials and other Nature Canada participants. He spoke with Nature Canada executive members about BC Nature’s concerns before meeting with other regional clubs and indigenous representatives. On Nature Day, April 9, he met with MP’s Peter Julian, Murray Rankin and Hedy Fry. Peter Julian, the House leader of the NDP and MP for New Westminster/Burnaby, echoed opinions similar to ours on environmental issues, including opposition to the Transmountain pipeline; he believes that the Government will delay their decision on the pipeline until after the election. He supports urban Parks, such as Little Campbell River, and does not support the Roberts Bank expansion. Hedy Fry supports Transmountain, supports more protection of marine areas and urban parks, and got filled in about Roberts Bank by Kees.

Ministerial conversations began with the preamble that Canada as a country signed on to the Protected Places declaration (Aichi), wherein all signatories committed to 17% protection of land and inland waters and to 10% of sea and coastal areas, by 2020. Canada as a whole has only 10% and 2% respectively, although BC is doing better with 15% and 5%, respectively. Nature Canada and its co-signatories wish to ensure that Canada will follow through on this commitment.

Kees spent his one minute addressing Minister Catherine McKenna about mountain caribou, the Southern Resident Killer Whales and the Roberts Bank expansion, and also met Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who mentioned in a speech that he was committed to protect 10 % of the Marine areas in 2019.

In Kamloops

Kamloops Naturalists Club member Jesse Ritcey obtained generous 3-year funding from the Lawson Foundation’s Next Generation Naturalists program to develop leadership skills in youth to effect positive environmental changes. The program includes raising public awareness through guest speaker events, direct personal engagement, and social media. A ‘Master Naturalist’ program will train people in citizen science and the natural history of the region, including its first peoples. Using the skills they develop, youth will work with the community to create and implement an ambitious environmental restoration project.

Parks

The BC government announced 105 hectares of expansion to six Class “A” provincial parks: Bridge Lake Provincial Park in the Cariboo; Harmony Islands Marine Provincial Park along the Sunshine Coast; Kikomun Creek Provincial Park in the Kootenays; Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park in the Okanagan; Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park in the Kootenays; and Syringa Provincial Park near Castlegar.

 

 

Peter Ballin

pjballin@mac.com

 

 

 

 

 





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