There are more than 1,900 species in British Columbia that are currently defined as “at risk”.
The BC Species at Risk night, co-hosted by the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre, Wildsight and the Golden chapter of the Council for Canadians, will show why BC needs to have its own laws to protect threatened species.
The event will take place at the Seniors Centre at 7:00 pm on Thursday, January 19th and will include a wildlife photo presentation of what animals are currently at stake under BC’s current legislation, including grizzlies, mountain caribou, whales and owls.
Sadie Parr, the Wildlife Interpreter for the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre, was inspired by the Wilderness Committee’s BC Species at Risk presentation in Burnaby earlier this year and knew it would be a good idea to bring the presentation back to Golden.
Parr explained that British Columbia is protected only by the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), which applies only to Crown land. This land compromises only one per cent of BC. BC and Alberta are the only provinces in the country which don’t have stand-alone species-at-risk legislation, even though BC boasts the most biodiversity out of any province in the country.
“There’s been a lot of criticizing around the nation-wide species at risk act, and that’s been that it’s too little, too late,” said Parr.
Even for species at risk that happen to live on federal Crown lands, action is often not enforced. Of the 359 species legally listed as “at risk” under SARA, only one has an approved recovery strategy and action plan in place: the Banff spring snail, which lives entirely within a national park.
A recent study by the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice and U.S.-based Conservation Northwest says more than 1,900 species are at risk of extinction or extirpation (local extinction) in B.C. because of a lack of protection.
Dr. Sarah Otto, the director of the Biodiversity Research Centre at the University of British Columbia wrote in a recent Vancouver Sun article that such weak legal protections are by no means the norm among developed countries: the U.S., for example, has strong and binding protections for species at risk, through their Endangered Species Act; this landmark act applies to all lands, has been enforced widely, and requires the protection of critical habitats.
Canada’s endangered species legislation, Otto explained, also pales in comparison to that of Mexico and many other nations.
“It’s crunch time right now,” said Parr. “There is development happening all over the world. BC has so much biodiversity yet none of it is protected.”
Parr explained that biodiversity is not only positive for living things, but the economy, too. Yellowstone National Park brings in70 million dollars a year through tourism and Parr believes British Columbia has the potential to attract more visitors through our “incredible biodiversity.”
“We need to start looking at the ecosystem as a whole, not just in different sectors like logging and mining,” said Parr. “ A whole is always better than parts.”
Parr is confident about what she, and hundreds of others around the province, want: one clear provincial act that protects species at risk; one that’s based on science, funded and enforced.
She hopes the BC Species at Risk presentation brings even more awareness around the issue of laws, or lack of laws, to protect BC’s biodiversity.