We must protect forests to protect water and ourselves

Almost 21 months ago, Islands Trust undertook the task of updating its Trust Policy Statement (TPS).

This is a rare opportunity for BC Trust to reassess how it maintains its mandate to “preserve and protect [the] unique services and surroundings ”of the 13 main islands, 450 smaller islands and the waters of the Salish Sea within its jurisdiction.

After some debate, it was decided that the TPS would move to the first reading in December.

It is also an opportunity for the province to reconsider the authority it has delegated to the trust to maintain that mandate.

Nowhere else in British Columbia or Canada is there a governance structure built around the retention and protection of ecological integrity and biodiversity.

And this unique structure is needed. The distinctive ecosystems of the Gulf Islands are primarily within the “Douglas Fir Coastal Biogeoclimatic Zone” (CDF), one of the most biodiverse regions in the country, with some of the greatest carbon storage capacities. These coastal ecosystems are intrinsically connected to the Salish Sea and are of enormous ecological and cultural importance.

The islands of the southern gulf are known as relatives of the salt water, or AMAZING, folks, with many other Coast Salish towns that call the islands home. However, throughout the CDF’s range, ecosystems have been sharply fragmented, with up to 50 percent converted by development. According to the BC Conservation Data Center, almost all the CDF ecological communities are provincially classified as threatened or endangered. A 2020 study of Southern Canada’s Most Important and Threatened Places for Biodiversity Conservation describes the entire range of the CDF as a crisis area.

Despite the growing need to protect these ecological communities, the tools given to the Islands Trust to protect them are a fraction of what municipalities have been given. Given the special mandate and structure of the trust, it should have an even greater capacity to pursue environmental protection than municipalities. As droughts worsen and temperatures rise, significant policy changes are needed.

What Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, described during a webinar organized by Raincoast in July, the deficiency of the environmental protection policy, not only in Islands Trust, but in BC, is due to the fact that “the laws have been designed with the premise that court trees in this province. “He calls this a” fundamental flaw “resulting in a” patchwork of legislation. ”

This sentiment echoes the claims made by the municipal law expert. Deborah Curran during a Comox Valley Land Trust Webinar in November 2020 exploring the pitfalls and promises of the Development Permit Areas for the Protection of the Natural Environment (EDPA). Curran, like Olsen, calls for comprehensive environmental protection policies to conserve ecologically sensitive landscapes.

Opinion: We must protect forests to protect water and protect ourselves, write @shauna_doll, Alex McLean and Chris Genovali @Raincoast. #ConservationScience #Protection #EnvironmentalPolicy

Last summer was one of the driest on record, with eastern Vancouver Island and many Gulf islands at drought level 4, “where adverse impacts on fish and ecosystems are likely.” Water security is expected to become more precarious in the trust area, where fresh water availability depends on rainfall. But maintaining your water supply isn’t as simple as letting the grass turn brown or taking shorter showers. Conserving intact forests is essential to maintaining water supplies, while providing better habitat for many species, stabilizing the soil, and absorbing carbon.

During a panel discussion earlier this year, Eric Pelkey ​​(W̱IĆKINEM), Tsawout Hereditary Chief of the WSÁNEĆ Nation, highlighted the importance of honoring the interconnectivity of ecosystems: “All these things are linked: the trees, the plants, the soil. They are not just individual living things, they are a community of living things. ”This interconnectedness means that we cannot follow the frameworks that have dictated land use decisions in British Columbia since colonization.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change most recent reportWe are essentially out of time. We must act quickly to avoid the catastrophic conditions expected from 2 ° C warming. The most important way to avoid this is the preservation and protection of intact ecosystems. While replanting and afforestation efforts are important, it takes orders of magnitude to maintain existing ecosystems. For example, standing forests and trees can now sequester carbon more effectively in the short term.

With the growing climate crisis, there has been increased recognition and recognition of the critical role that trees can play in fighting climate change. As the Woodland Trust states, trees are “our most powerful weapon” because they are the “ultimate carbon capture and storage machines.” Protection of CDF ecosystems in the Islands Trust area it should be prioritized, and tree charters, for example, are an effective tool for local governments to implement and enforce such efforts.

In British Columbia, 58 out of 162 municipalities have statutes to regulate tree removal on private land. Raincoast has produced a report which provides an overview of the major components of municipal tree charters in the province and details how differences in various tree charter components impact the scope of protected trees. The report also looks at how the tree bylaws of regional districts differ from those of municipalities, and how such bylaws could be implemented in the Islands Trust.

We must protect forests to protect water and protect ourselves. The provincial government’s hesitancy to implement a sound forest protection policy and its refusal to provide the Islands Trust with the regulatory tools necessary to maintain its mandate to preserve and protect has resulted in significant and ongoing ecological losses. We must expect and demand more from those with the power to implement change.

Shauna Doll is the Gulf Islands Forestry Project Coordinator for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Alex McLean is a second year law student at the University of Victoria and worked as a Raincoast Summer Tree Policy Protection Intern. Chris Genovali is the CEO of Raincoast.


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