Park Place Lodge
 John Bergenske

Wildsight Strategic Advisor John Bergenske hiking across the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, which he helped to create. Photo courtesy of Wildsight

Today, Premier David Eby unveiled a new $300 million for Conservation Financing Mechanism that will help progress British Columbia’s mandate to protect 30% of its land and water by 2030 (30×30). The funds, which consist of $150 million from the province and $150 million through the BC Parks Foundation, will be used to support conservation initiatives that are led or supported by First Nations.

“This is a very welcome and necessary first step in order to fulfill the provincial and federal 30×30 mandate,” says John Bergenske, Wildsight Strategic Advisor. “It’s the missing piece in the government’s support of Indigenous-led conservation and a conservation-led economy.”

Conservation financing is a core tool that will support new conservation initiatives such as Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, capacity building for First Nations, stewardship and guardian programs, and support for low-carbon economic opportunities.

Eddie Petryshen

Wildsight Conservation Specialist Eddie Petryshen examines logged old growth. Photo by Bailey Repp/Wildsight

The announcement included a commitment to replace industry-driven forest planning with Forest Landscape Plans that will establish clear objectives for old growth, biodiversity, climate change and wildfire risk. Bergenske stated that immediate stopgap measures must be implemented to ensure that no more old growth forests or important habitats — and the plants and animals they support — are lost while land use planning is completed.

“Wildsight is concerned that land use planning will be a lengthy process and critical areas of old growth and caribou habitat could very well be compromised in the meantime,” he says. “We are asking the government to take interim measures while the planning process takes place.”

The B.C. government committed to accelerate the protection of old-growth forests in 2020 following the release of the landmark Old Growth Strategic Review report. Approximately 2.4 million hectares of old growth have now been deferred from logging in British Columbia, including 1.23 million hectares of the province’s most at-risk old growth. Yet logging continues in old-growth stands across the province. Furthermore, old growth deferral areas remain in the timber harvesting land base and are contributing to unsustainable annual allowable cut levels.

caribou habitat

Old growth logging threatens critical caribou habitat. Photo by David Moskowitz

The continued logging of these old-growth stands not only increases the threat of wildfires and flooding for local communities, it also imperils local caribou populations such as the Columbia North herd: the only population in the Kootenays that has a chance of long-term survival.

“We are facing climate and biodiversity crises that threaten the ecosystems we all depend upon: immediate action is needed,” John says. “Wildsight welcomes British Columbia’s commitment to a long-awaited shift in land-use management that will incorporate Indigenous-led conservation. Both British Columbia and Canada will have to provide more funding as soon as possible to support conservation initiatives that address biodiversity and ecosystem health across the landscape.”

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