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Resolution 2020-001 – Ecological Reserves System of British Columbia

Submitted by Philip Lambert,

President of the Victoria Natural History Society

Updated Version Prepared by Jenny Feick for the Friends of Ecological Reserves 

WHEREAS in 1971, the British Columbia Legislature gave unanimous approval to the Ecological  Reserve Act, thus becoming the first province in Canada to formalize, acknowledge the benefits  of, and give permanent protected status to ecological reserves; and

WHEREAS the Ecological Reserve Act of 1971 enabled the creation of 148 Ecological Reserves  across B.C. as part of a Protected Area system specifically to protect representative examples of  the ecosystem types in B.C. as well as rare species and special features of biological and  geological importance, for scientific study and educational purposes; and

WHEREAS, the BC Government holds primary stewardship responsibility for the B.C. Protected  Areas system, including Ecological Reserves, and that all British Columbians currently derive  economic, social, cultural, health and environmental benefits from these areas; and

WHEREAS an assessment of the condition of existing reserves in 2005 raised “concerns that the  ecological values of many individual reserves are at significant risk and a more proactive  approach to managing the reserves is required to reverse this trend.”

WHEREAS climate change, increased resource activities and expanding human populations  place greater pressures and create greater uncertainty on the sustainability of the species and  ecosystems in Canada’s most ecologically diverse province. Reducing uncertainty can be aided  over time if there is a sustained monitoring and research program in its protected areas,  including Ecological Reserves, so that adaptation strategies are informed by scientific  understanding of trends and thresholds; and

WHEREAS the original concept behind Ecological Reserves was that science-based approaches  are a fundamental key to understanding how to sustain B.C.’s natural ecological and bio diversity, and so, with today’s awareness of climate change effects on nature, Ecological  Reserves remain relevant today, and are now even more urgently needed; and

WHEREAS most Ecological Reserves were specifically designated as research and monitoring  sites, these activities have not been consistently pursued by government or promoted to  universities and colleges in the last 40 years, i.e., since the early 1980s; and

WHEREAS there are approved management planning documents for 126 (85%) of B.C.’s  Ecological Reserves, there has been little to no implementation by BC Parks of these Ecological  Reserve guidance documents since the 1980s, and thus, instead of serving as natural area  benchmarks in research and monitoring studies, Ecological Reserve volunteer wardens report that most Ecological Reserves are suffering environmental degradation from a variety of  external and internal threats due to lack of maintenance and stewardship actions; and

WHEREAS, the BC government initiated a volunteer warden system in 1980 to assist BC Parks in  effectively managing and protecting Ecological Reserves in accordance with the objectives of  the Ecological Reserve Act and Ecological Reserve Regulations and that in 2020, approximately  25% of current Ecological Reserves (35 out of 148) lack any volunteer warden.

WHEREAS traditional land use by Indigenous Peoples is generally permitted in Ecological  Reserves, stewardship actions by Indigenous Ecological Reserve wardens and Indigenous groups  are welcomed, and Ecological Reserves provide opportunities for the maintenance and  application of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and co-management, therefore the  establishment of new Ecological Reserves in collaboration with Indigenous Ecological  Knowledge Keepers and maintenance of existing Ecological Reserves by Indigenous wardens  could help support the BC government’s efforts to implement the United Nations Declaration  on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); and

WHEREAS no systems plan for Ecological Reserves in B.C. exists and the current 148 Ecological  Reserves do not form an adequate network of study areas to represent the diversity in B.C.’s  Ecoregions and Ecological Zones, and

WHEREAS new discoveries of significant botanical, zoological and geological features and rare  or endangered native plants and animals in their natural habitat are still being made, a clear  process is needed to set aside specific areas of land to create a more robust Ecological Reserve  system that incorporates newly discovered significant areas and features and helps the  Province meet its provincial, national and international commitments for biodiversity  conservation, species at risk protection, and Indigenous stewardship; and

WHEREAS the total area of land set aside for the 148 Ecological Reserves in B.C. is 112, 543 ha  in terrestrial reserves plus 51,731 ha in marine reserves, comprising 0.008% of the BC Parks  Protected Area System, and that individual Ecological Reserves tend to be small, they do not  alienate large tracts of land from economic development. However, they protect ecologic,  biologic and geologic resources of great environmental value and their placement can be  strategic so that they contribute to provincial environmental goals related to biodiversity and  heritage conservation, climate change action (mitigation and adaptation), Indigenous  stewardship, and evidence-based policy. Thus, the long-term comprehensive benefits of  protecting these resources exceed the short-term economic gain from development that would  destroy these resources.

WHEREAS setting aside additional Crown lands as Ecological Reserves would increase the  probability of sustaining ecosystems currently in B.C. and limit irreparable biological losses in a period of rapid climate change, an expanded world-class Ecological Reserve system could help  the BC Government achieve biodiversity conservation commitments, inform climate change  adaptation strategies and augment Indigenous stewardship opportunities.

WHEREAS, the Friends of Ecological Reserves (FER) presented to the BC Government a list of  worthy candidate Ecological Reserves in 2014 with a reminder in 2017, none of these areas  have been officially added to the Ecological Reserve system; and

WHEREAS, May 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the Ecological Reserves Act and regulations  and the establishment of B.C.’s first ecological reserves, thus making it an ideal opportunity to  designate additional Ecological Reserves.

Be it resolved that BC Nature urges the BC Government put in place a clear process to add new  Ecological Reserves to the system with a schedule for management plan completion and  implementation established where gaps exist in ecosystem representation or significant  biological (botanical, zoological, genetic) or geological features, and

Be it further resolved that BC Nature urges the BC Government to establish immediate (2021)  and long range targets to establish additional Crown lands as Ecological Reserves to represent  and protect fragile ecosystems, culturally modified ecosystems and features, rare and  endangered species, and significant biological and geological features, in this period of rapid  climate change, and

Be it further resolved that BC Nature urges BC Parks to commit to maintaining the current  system of Ecological Reserves by completing and implementing approved Ecological Reserve  management plans in a timely fashion, and

Be it further resolved that BC Nature urges the BC government to facilitate research in  Ecological Reserves by forming partnerships with universities, colleges, research institutions,  ENGOs, and Indigenous peoples to get research projects, TEK studies, and baseline biodiversity  inventories completed, periodically updated, communicated and used to inform land uses,  management practices and climate change adaptation strategies across the broader landscape,  and

Be it further resolved that BC Nature urges BC Parks to support the volunteer stewardship  efforts of Ecological Reserve wardens as well as ENGO and Indigenous partners in Ecological  Reserves by taking action to address threats to Ecological Reserves that they identify, providing  opportunities for training and communicating, and supporting specific stewardship projects  with in-kind support and where possible, funds.

Government Contacts

Honourable Katrine Conroy

Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and

Honourable Nathan Cullen

Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations

Mailing address:

PO Box 9049 Stn Prov Govt

Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Their email address is: The Minister’s Office phone number is: 250- 387-6240.

Honourable George Heyman

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy


Kelly Greene

Parliamentary Secretary for Environment

Mailing Address:

PO Box 9047 Stn Prov Gov

Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Their email address is: . The Minister’s Office phone number is: 250- 387-1187.


Letter to Saanich Council re: Restoration of Panama Flats Wetland

Oct. 23, 2020

Mayor and Council
District of Saanich
770 Vernon Ave.
Victoria, BC, V8X 2W7

Re: Restoration of Panama Flats Wetland

Dear Saanich Mayor and Council,

On behalf of the Victoria Natural History Society, I’m writing to let you know of our Society’s concern regarding the management of Panama Flats. We recognize that Panama Flats are zoned for agricultural use. While we wholeheartedly support the protection of agricultural land, in this location, the ecological importance of this wetland cannot be overstated. Instead of farming it, we encourage you to commit to restoring and protecting it as a nature sanctuary, similar to Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary.

The Victoria Natural History Society is a completely volunteer community organization with a 75 year history in the region and as many as 750 members currently, many of whom are residents of Saanich. Our goals are:

  • To stimulate an active interest in natural history;
  • To study and protect flora and fauna and their habitats; and
  • To work with other societies and like bodies having interests in common with the Society.

Not surprisingly, we take an active interest in regional land use decisions that could adversely impact wildlife and its habitat. Panama Flats provides very important habitat for a great many species despite being significantly degraded by past farming practices. Of particular concern are the adverse impacts continued farming would have on migratory birds using the Pacific Flyway year-round. The Flats are known and promoted as one of the region’s birding hotspots with at least 207 species of birds recorded (via eBird).

It should also be pointed out that the value of a wetland, like Panama Flats, goes well beyond just providing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. As many municipalities are discovering, protecting and restoring wetlands also makes good economic sense as shown through the Municipal Natural Asset Initiative. It employs tools to put a value on nature’s ability to provide municipal services, such as water purification, flood reduction, water supply and erosion control. Today, eleven municipalities across Canada have signed on to the initiative, which is leading to more wetlands and other natural ecosystems being restored and protected.

According to Ducks Unlimited, up to 80% of the original wetlands along Vancouver Island’s east coast have been destroyed. Within the Greater Victoria region, as much as 70% of the wetlands have been drained and filled in. Action to protect and restore wetlands within the region is urgently needed.

As we acknowledged in our Sept. 25th letter regarding the Royal Oak Golf Course property, the District of Saanich has a generally well-deserved reputation as an environmentally sensitive steward of public lands. In particular, we applaud the establishment of the Saanich Technical Committee recently with the sweeping mandate to “restore and protect air, land, and water quality, the biodiversity of existing natural areas and ecosystems, the network of natural areas and open spaces, and urban forests.” The restoration of Panama Flats is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to this mandate.

It also makes good economic sense in terms of flood protection and other ecological services provided by the wetland at no cost as alluded to by the Colquitz River Watershed Proper Functioning Condition Assessment commissioned by Saanich in 2009. It concluded that Panama Flats provided important surface water management services and that there was “great potential” for restoring the area as a valuable natural asset.  It went on to provide specific and detailed recommendations as to how this should be done. In the short-term, restoration effort should focus on re-establishing meanders in the Colquitz River channel along with the removal of invasive species and replanting with native species appropriate to the habitat. The long-term goal, according to the Assessment, should be the re-establishment of the broader wetland that once occupied the area.

We fully support these recommendations and urge you to adopt and follow through with these recommendations.

Thank you for your attention,


Philip Lambert


Victoria Natural History Society








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