Resolution 2020-001 – Ecological Reserves System of British Columbia
Submitted by Philip Lambert,
President of the Victoria Natural History Society firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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
PO Box 9049 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
Their email address is: FLNR.Minister@gov.bc.ca. The Minister’s Office phone number is: 250- 387-6240.
Honourable George Heyman
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Parliamentary Secretary for Environment
PO Box 9047 Stn Prov Gov
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
Their email address is: ENV.Minister@gov.bc.ca . The Minister’s Office phone number is: 250- 387-1187.