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Les Kiss

Vice President, Forestry, Coast Forest Products Association

A BC-Specific Species and Eco-Systems at Risk Legislation– An Opportunity for Policy Innovation

Les Kiss, RFP, Vice President, Forestry 
Coast Forest Products Association

Premier Horgan has tasked Environment Minister George Heyman to develop a new species at risk legislation for British Columbia. Coast Forest Products Association believes this creates an opportunity to generate made-in-BC policies and legislation which will account for the social, environmental and economic interests of British Columbians while managing species at risk.

Coastal companies have a long history of science-based, responsible habitat management for species such as the Marbled Murrelet, Northern Goshawk, Grizzly Bear, Vancouver Island Marmot and others.  We operate in a world-class regulatory land use framework that emphasizes habitat management for wildlife, fish biodiversity and species at risk.  This management approach has resulted in over 37% of the land base being designated for Wildlife Habitat Areas, Wildlife Management Areas, Ungulate Winter Ranges, Old Growth Management Areas, parks and conservation areas.  Plus, the Great Bear Rainforest Act of 2016 conserves 3.1 million hectares (85%) of temperate rainforest along BC’s coast.

Our forest companies are operating under challenging legislative conditions.  Federal and provincial legislation and strategies are misaligned and, thus, detract from the effectiveness of managing species at risk. The federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) is ineffective in its process-driven one-species-at-a-time approach – yet it influences provincial decisions on habitat protection.  At a provincial level, the Identified Wildlife Management Strategy (IWMS) British Columbia uses to manage species at risk needs modernization to reflect emerging research-based management approaches.

The development of BC species at risk legislation does not need to start from scratch.  The Provincial Ministry of Environment conducted a thorough consultation process resulting in a comprehensive “Five-Year Plan for Species at Risk.” It suggested a thoughtful move from one-species-at-a-time thinking to an ecosystem, landscape and multi-species approach more appropriate for the protection and recovery of species at risk.  It also allowed for consideration of the social and economic interests of BC’s communities.  The Plan was centered around five main elements including:

  • Management at the ecosystem and landscape scale using co-location of a number of species’ needs and other values;
  • Basing decisions on transparent science where “best available information” supports the identification, management and recovery of species at risk;
  • Consideration of socio-economic implications of protection measures and consultation;
  • Applying protection for species at risk consistently across all sectors; and
  • Measuring and reporting on government’s investments in species at risk management to ensure objectives are being met and if they are effective.

Whether the 5-Year Plan is used – or another model, BC’s next species management legislation must take an innovative approach in order to better deliver ecological, social and economic outcomes. It should also bring to fruition the priorities of Premier Horgan’s mandate letters which state that good ideas and collaboration be used to build a strong, sustainable and innovative economy that works for everyone. Coast Forest welcomes the opportunity to work with Minister Heyman and his ministry to develop good legislation that can strengthen and continue to improve sustainable management of BC’s species at risk.