ENVIRO NOTES: Our province’s resources may be at risk

British Columbians are justifiably proud of their natural resources and happily promote “Beautiful B.C.”

But have we become complacent or uninformed about the way these resources are being managed?

We need to be aware that all is not as we might like.

A 2012 report, Trends in Renewable Resources Management in B.C., by four recently-retired resource management professionals – many years ago I had the pleasure of working with one of them – shows clearly that our successive governments have not done well by the community in managing our resource estate.

A growing understanding of the complexity of ecological processes, increasing pressures on our natural world and concerns for sustainability combine to demand more and more of resource management.

At the same time as management obligations have multiplied, government funding of the resource ministries – and consequently staffing – has declined.

The report records that the number of relevant statutes to be implemented has risen from eight in 1978 to 20 in 2008, while resource managers’ responsibilities have tripled.

Approximately 2,000 professional biologists are registered in B.C. and about 3,000 forestry professionals. The Ministry of Environment currently employs fewer than 500 registered professional biologists, and there some 1,100 registered professional foresters in the Ministry of Forests at the moment.

While government has introduced a results-based management policy, it has reduced the number of professionals available to oversee that policy.

This means there can be less critical examination of operational proposals, less monitoring of activities and less assurance that desired outcomes have been achieved than is warranted.

In other words, our renewable resources are not being given adequate protection .

Two instances highlight the dangers of lessened oversight.

The Forest Practices Board’s 2009 report, Fish Passage at Stream Crossings, states that “fish stream crossings (on roads) may be the single most important habitat impact affecting fish.”

Despite this, only 50 of the more than 134,000 crossings known to be at high or medium priority for remediation have been dealt with in the past two years.

At this rate, it will take more than 3,000 years to correct the existing problems!

Last year, the auditor general’s report, Conservation of Ecological Integrity in B.C. Parks and Protected Areas asked if B.C. Parks, was meeting its stated goal of “proactive stewardship of ecological integrity.”

The answer was a clear ‘no.’

Amongst other things, the ministry does not have sufficient and reliable information on species, ecosystems and ecological processes and it has halted its interpretation program which was instrumental in informing visitors about ecology and the park environment.

The audit report’s concluding assessment could well be applied to all of B.C.’s resource management – the organization does not have the resources and expertise to meet its stated goal.

Of course, this raises the urgent questions: can we dare we allow this deteriorating situation to continue and, if not, what will we, the community, do to remedy it?

Dr. Roy Strang writes monthly on the environment for the Peace Arch News.

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