VANCOUVER – Several prominent environmental groups welcomed a Private Members Bill that was reintroduced into the British Columbia Legislature today by New Democrat MLA Rob Fleming. The Bill seeks to establish long overdue legislation protecting the province’s endangered species.
B.C. has more that 1,900 species at risk, including grizzly bears, American badgers, wolverines and burrowing owls. B.C. and Alberta hold the dubious distinction of being the only two provinces in Canada without standalone endangered species legislation.
“British Columbia is known around the world for its breathtaking wilderness and diverse wildlife – that’s why it’s so shocking that this province is still without an endangered species law,” said Gwen Barlee, policy director for the Wilderness Committee.
“If we don’t act now to protect endangered species here they will start to wink out one by one.”
The NDP’s proposed Species at Risk Protection Act, if passed, would require by law a series of measures including: scientific assessment of which species are at risk, legal listing, protections against killing individuals of the species and protection of their habitat, and the development of recovery strategies to determine what actions are needed for a species’ survival and recovery.
The law would also encourage voluntary stewardship activities and allow for socioeconomic considerations to be taken into account when government decides what elements of a recovery strategy to implement.
“We know that British Columbians treasure the outdoors and the range of wildlife in this province,” said Susan Howatt, managing director of Sierra Club B.C. “This legislation is a necessary step, because it protects our high standard of living and something that people both in B.C. and abroad treasure about our unique corner of the world.”
Public polling has shown that almost 90 per cent of British Columbians care deeply about endangered wildlife and believe that the province needs to enact a strong law to recover species at risk, and to prevent species from becoming at risk in the first place. The BC government has repeatedly balked at introducing an Endangered Species Law in the province.
“Climate change is placing increasing pressure on species and their habitats,” said Susan Pinkus, staff scientist for Ecojustice. “We need a strong law to ensure protection of British Columbia’s richness of wildlife.”
In addition to this new Bill, pressure is building for the B.C. government to take action to protect species at risk.
Last week more than 200 scientists signed an open letter to B.C. Premier Christy Clark, urging her to move ahead with approving a national park in south Okanagan-Similkameen region, home to one third of B.C.’s endangered species.
“Protecting and recovering at-risk wildlife is an insurance policy for human communities because their habitat is our habitat, their waters are our waters, and their forests are our forests,” said Joe Scott, international conservation director of Conservation Northwest.