BC environmental groups challenged the BC government’s March 18 announcement that they have protected nearly two million hectares of land for wildlife. While Wildlife Habitat Areas and Ungulate Winter Range provide some additional guidelines for logging companies operating in sensitive habitats, the groups claim it is misleading to call these areas “protected.”
“Real protected areas do not allow industrial activities such as logging, road-building and mining,” said Devon Page, staff lawyer at Sierra Legal Defence Fund. “This is about the government trying to paint itself green before the provincial election, but it is dishonest to the public and provides a false sense of security at a time when BC’s wildlife are in serious trouble.”
The government’s own Forest Practices Board has expressed concern that many Wildlife Habitat Areas are constrained by arbitrary political and economic caps, (such as the current 1% cap on impacts to the timber supply), that severely limit their effectiveness. The Board stated just two weeks ago that these caps are not based on scientific needs of wildlife.
The Board also noted that it is inappropriate for the forest industry to be leading planning for wildlife protection, and that staffing cuts to the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and other earth ministries should not be offset by industry-led public resource planning.
“The primary role of forest companies is to log,” said Justin Calof, Forestry Specialist for the Sierra Club of Canada, BC Chapter. “Many British Columbians are uncomfortable with the forest industry leading wildlife planning, instead of well-staffed and publicly accountable government ministries.”
“This announcement is unfortunately more about spin than it is about protection,” said Gwen Barlee, Policy Director with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee. “If we want to safeguard our wildlife in BC we need a strong endangered species law, not dressed-up logging areas.”
“British Columbians care deeply about endangered wildlife and can tell the difference between industry self-regulation and true protected areas,” concluded ForestEthics campaigner Candace Batycki. “The government needs to heed the Forest Practices Board and enact laws that actually protect BC’s wildlife heritage.”