Sonia Furstenau column: B.C. government needs to step up to save endangered species

Sonia Furstenau column: B.C. government needs to step up to save endangered species

We sat down and waited patiently, and 45 minutes later a pod of orcas appeared.

This September, our family travelled to Port Hardy for an end-of-summer trip. We enjoyed the misty mornings that gave way to crisp, clear early fall days. Waking up on Sunday morning, we made our way to Malcolm Island, where we visited the museum in Sointula, and then headed to Bere Point for a walk in the coastal rainforest.

When we arrived at Beautiful Bay, several people were sitting quietly on the beach. We learned that they were hoping for a rare viewing of orcas rubbing on the smooth, rounded stones in the bay. We sat down and waited patiently, and 45 minutes later a pod of orcas appeared. They spent about 10 minutes in the bay, swirling and swimming and rubbing on the rocks just a few metres from where all of us sat silently watching, awestruck. None of us moved or spoke until the orcas swam off into the deeper waters, heading northward. We witnessed a wonder. It was an experience I will never forget.

B.C.’s iconic orcas are a red-listed species, which means that they have been “legally designated as Endangered or Threatened under the Wildlife Act, are extirpated, or are candidates for such designation.”

Our children were with us on Malcolm Island. I couldn’t help but think about the distinct possibility that in a few decades, they could be mourning the loss of this species, and so many others.

According to a UN report released this last March, a million species on our planet are currently at risk of extinction. While B.C. is the most bio-diverse province in Canada, it is also home to 1,807 species currently at risk of extinction. We are one of only three provinces that do not have standalone legislation to protect endangered species.

The NDP government promised that it would bring in endangered species legislation, but we have seen no progress on introduction, and no clear commitment or timeline from this government to keep its promise.

The BC Green Caucus believes in comprehensive, evidence-based policy and decision-making; governments cannot pick and choose which evidence they follow. On this subject, the science is clear: we are running out of time to save B.C.’s endangered species, and the NDP government lacks urgency in their response.

This week in the Legislature, we heard evidence of this when my colleague Adam Olsen asked the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development if the government will call off the wolf cull. Wolves are predators of the near-extinct caribou. Evidence shows that culling wolves to reduce the pressures on caribou can be effective — in the short term. It does not solve the source of the problem and so the culling strategy is short term and shortsighted.

Humans have played a significant role in caribou destruction by opening forest corridors for oil-and-gas exploration and land clearing. This enables wolves to reach caribou habitat, which is deep in boreal forest and not otherwise easily accessed. This is the source of the problem, but instead of putting restrictions on oil-and-gas activities that disrupt the natural order, the NDP government continues to support large taxpayer-funded subsidies of oil-and-gas corporations to expand LNG, thus increasing fracking and seriously impacting caribou habitat.

If we are to cull anything, it’s LNG.

The minister responded to Adam’s question by saying it’s predator, not habitat changes that are the issue, and later went on to blame the former BC Liberal government for their role in the problem.

We are watching in real time what delay and inaction can mean to biodiversity. The short-sighted resource-management practices of successive governments have brought our province to the brink of eliminating critical at-risk wildlife populations and habitats.

The real consequences and terrible choices that will be felt by the people on the ground is largely the result of decades of policy neglect. If our ecosystems collapse, so does our society. We need biodiversity for pollination, flood prevention, water and air purification, climate change resiliency, and social and cultural well-being.

Diversity of life is necessary. Each of us benefits from having these plants and animals sharing the world with us, whether we witness the wonder of them scratching their backs on the beach or not. Our children and generations to follow deserve to witness all the wonders of this province. To do so, we need to apply rigorous and evidence-based solutions that fulfill our responsibility to protect species at risk in British Columbia.

Sonia Furstenau is the MLA for the Cowichan Valley.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rockfall closed Finlayson Arm Road and West Shore Parkway on Friday (March 5) afternoon. (Twitter/BC Transportation)
UPDATED: Malahat reopens following rockfall

Section of Trans-Canada Highway was scheduled for intermittent closures today for rock scaling work

In years past in-person ceremonies have been held for International Women’s Day. This year the observance is going online on Monday, March 8, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (file photo)
Virtual ceremony for Women’s Day in Cowichan on Monday

Audrey George, manager of the Ts’i’ts’uwatul’ Lelum assisted living facility, will be keynote speaker.

North Cowichan councillor Rob Douglas is advocating for a pilot project that would see the forest industry on Vancouver Island and the coast managed regionally. (File photo)
N. Cowichan councillor continues push for regional management of forestry

North Cowichan councillor wants pilot project established

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor. (Photo by Bernard Thibodeau)
NDP tables dental care program

Millions of Canadians don’t visit the dentist every year because they can’t afford to.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Most Read