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The Site C dam fight: what keeps me going

By Galen Armstrong, Peace Valley Campaigner

March 2, 2017

Working for change can be tough. Last night I was on the phone with a hard-working volunteer, and she was feeling the pain underlying our mission to stop the Site C dam before the flooding begins, which is set to start in 2022.

Galen with photographer Louis Bockner (credit) and Peace Valley farmers Ken and Arlene Boon.

We were preparing to make outreach phone calls to new volunteers to ask them to join us at a weekly canvass. During a canvass, we talk to strangers on the street and tell them what a huge mistake the Site C dam is, and that it will impact each of us financially via our hydro bills—especially if we don’t cut our losses and stop it.

Last night, this volunteer wanted to talk about the grief she was feeling as she thought about the families who are literally facing the loss of their homes. The land of farmers Ken and Arlene Boon has already been expropriated, though they are allowed to remain in their farmhouse until May—just two months from now.

So we talked about it. We recognized that there’s a lot of grief in all of this. I can’t imagine how it must feel for the Boons, or for Yvonne Tupper or Julian Napoleon or other members of First Nations living near the Peace River Valley. We each have our own experience of what’s happening, and what could happen.

Last fall when I visited the Peace, I met a couple named Caroline and Derek, and their three boys. Recently, Caroline sent me this video of their oldest son, 12-year-old Xavier, who is facing the fact that his family’s home, which sits right next to the Peace River, will be lost if the dam isn’t stopped.

It’s important to recognize how hard this all is. For me, thinking of the people who are most directly facing the consequences of the Site C dam is what motivates me to keep going. Even when they’re people I haven’t met.

It’s not the only thing that motivates me—there is also the loss of species and ecosystems, the loss of culture, the loss of heritage, the loss of prime agricultural land, the impact on British Columbians everywhere who struggle to pay their bills—but these faces and their stories hit me in a uniquely visceral way.

The Beam family. Photo by Louis Bockner.

Even if it sometimes feels like the odds are stacked against us, I know what we are doing makes a difference, and I know it’s possible to stop the dam. I remember when the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline was approved by the federal government, and still it was stopped. It can be the same with the Site C dam.

So we took a little time last night to discuss those hard feelings, and then we got back to work. We called new potential volunteers. Some weren’t home. Some said “sorry, I can’t help.” And some said they would be there to join us on Monday, on Thursday, on Saturday.

I want to encourage everyone to take time to feel those hard feelings, and reach out for support when you need it. Then let’s shift that pain and sadness into anger and action. Let’s have it motivate us to work even harder to make a difference.

We need people to help make phone calls, to write letters to the editor, and to join us in the streets. Sign up to join our team of canvassers and volunteers—if we all do our part, we can not only stop the dam, we can stop the pain and suffering of families in the Peace Valley.

Please take action to stop the dam by sending a letter to the federal government and consider making a donation to Sierra Club BC. If you want to get more involved, you can always send me an email.

Thank you for everything you’ve already done, and that you’re doing now. It matters.

It’s time for the BC government to curb raw log exports and boost value-added forestry jobs

February 27

Between 2013 and 2016, more raw logs were shipped from BC than during any other four-year period in the province’s history, prompting two forest industry unions and three leading environmental groups to call for a ban on raw log exports from old-growth forests and bold government action to stimulate BC’s flagging forest sector.

Raw log exports. Photo by TJ Watt.

The call follows new research released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ BC Office (CCPA-BC) that shows how exports of raw, unprocessed logs are surging. If these logs were processed in some of BC’s hardest hit forestry communities, at least 3,600 new jobs could be generated.

Last year, BC forest companies exported enough raw logs to frame nearly 134,000 homes, which equals roughly half of  Vancouver’s standing single-family homes. Instead of creating thousands of good-paying jobs in rural communities, logs are exported in raw form.

The Public and Private Workers of Canada along with UNIFOR (Canada’s largest private sector union), the Ancient Forest Alliance, Sierra Club BC and the Wilderness Committee say the Province should enact a bold three-point plan to curb exports and stimulate jobs:

  1. Place an immediate ban on all exports of raw logs from old-growth forests.
  2. Immediately impose progressively higher taxes on log exports from second-growth forests to encourage investment in domestic mills.
  3. Introduce new policies to increase value-added forest manufacturing and jobs in rural and First Nations communities.

Four years of log export data analyzed by the CCPA-BC uncovered a number of disturbing trends in log exports from BC:

  • Between 2013 and 2016, nearly 26 million cubic meters of raw logs, with a combined sales value of more than $3 billion, were shipped from BC – more than any other four-year period since record keeping began.
  • More than one in three logs exported in the past five years came from BC’s centuries-old coastal old-growth rainforests
  • Most log exports in the past five years came from public lands under direct provincial control, not from private lands where the BC government has no jurisdiction, which is a sharp reversal from previous norms.

Vancouver Island rainforest. Photo by Charly Caproff.

Sierra Club BC is working toward solutions for healthy rainforests and healthy communities and worked with the BC government, First Nations and stakeholders on implementation of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements. Regional models like the Ecosystem-Based Management framework in the Great Bear Rainforest must be complemented with coherent province-wide conservation, climate and economic policies to ensure forestry can contribute jobs as part of a diverse, low carbon economy. For more information, please read our ten-point plan for transition toward this vision in our report, The Future is Here.

Please donate today to support our work protecting BC’s ancient and endangered old-growth forests.

Feature image by TJ Watt.

 

B.C. budget offers 1950s thinking in response to 2017’s challenges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 21, 2017

Sierra Club BC released the following statement from communications director Tim Pearson in response to the release of the 2017 B.C. Budget:

“This budget offers 1950s thinking in response to 2017’s challenges.

“It’s a budget blind to the need to transform our economy away from fossil fuels. It’s a budget blind to the potential jobs and prosperity that can be created with a realistic road map to a post-carbon economy. And it’s a budget that shows no meaningful commitment to climate action.

“Where are the investments in the affordable, renewable energy alternatives and innovation that will power our economy and provide jobs now and far into the future? Nowhere.

“Instead, we get support for the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tankers project, increased fracking and the Site C megadam—a boondoggle that will subsidize fossil fuel exploitation and drive ever increasing Hydro bills for decades to come.

“Every million dollars invested in fossil fuels generates two jobs. That same million dollars would deliver 15 jobs via renewable energy projects.

“If we want a thriving economy and good, green, family-supporting jobs, we need a budget that will drive a shift to a sustainable, post-carbon economy.

“We need affordable, climate-friendly energy sources that will create jobs in communities throughout B.C. and drive innovation in clean technology.

“We need a genuine commitment to forest health, not the re-announcement of last year’s reforestation funding and no real plan for how our forests will aid in climate action.

“For years, this government has treated the environment and climate change as an afterthought. This budget is no exception.

“It’s a blindness that will hurt our economy and rob us of jobs, as other jurisdictions leave us behind in innovation, as the market for fossil fuels evaporates and as British Columbians are left to pay down mountains of debt.”

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Contact:
Tim Pearson
Director of Communications, Sierra Club BC
(250) 896-1556
tim@sierraclub.bc.ca

Let’s Connect It and Protect It! Completing the World’s First International Peace Park

By Bob Peart

January 30, 2017

“What do you think?  Is that a small grizzly or a wolverine?”

There were five of us from the Flathead Wild team backpacking along the BC-Alberta border when we saw this animal race across a high ridge in the distance.  Our hike was taking us along the high mountain ridges overlooking the Flathead River Valley in southeastern BC.

The Flathead River Valley is in the unceded traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation. These lands and water are Ktunaxa and they form a critical part of the treaty process that is underway to clarify and define Ktunaxa title and rights.

The Southern Rocky Mountains of BC are internationally known for their abundance and diversity of wildlife; and the waters of the Flathead River remain free-flowing and exceptionally clean, clear and cold.  Endangered and sensitive species such as grizzly bear, wolverine and bull trout still thrive in this beautiful landscape.  The Flathead Valley is unmatched in North America for the variety and density of carnivores and its extraordinary diversity of plants and animals.  It remains one of the last wild river basins in southern Canada.

However, there are no legislated wildlife sanctuaries in the Southern Rockies.  With constant threats from coal mining, highway and railway expansion, logging and off-road vehicles, there is less and less space where these wild animals can roam freely and find the food and conditions they need to survive.

To this end about 10 years ago, Sierra Club BC joined with 5 other conservation groups to form Flathead Wild. We are a collaborative international effort coordinating the campaign to designate an International Wildlife Corridor all the way from the Waterton-Glacier park complex to Banff National Park, as part of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.  Our goal is to have this wildlife corridor include a Flathead National Park Reserve and a provincial wildlife management area that would be designed to work with the interests of the Ktunaxa.

Photo by Joe Riis.

Thanks to your support we have managed to get a ban on mining and energy development in the Flathead Valley, yet the region remains under threatened by development.

We need your continuing support so we can remain an active member of Flathead Wild, to support the Ktunaxa achieving their goals, and to ensure the Flathead Valley will remain a natural jewel. Please donate today.

For more information please go to the Flathead Wild website and sign our petition to complete Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Incidentally, we never did agree whether the animal we saw was a small grizzly or a wolverine.

Feature image by Joe Riis.

 

Transboundary Environmental Coalition calls for halt to new mines in Canada’s Southern Rockies

January 30, 2017

In light of recent charges brought against Teck (TSE:TECK.B) under the Fisheries Act for fish deaths resulting from the failure of their selenium treatment plant in 2014, the Flathead Wild Coalition is renewing their call for a halt to new coal mines in BC’s Elk River Valley.

Selenium levels in the Elk River watershed continue to be a serious threat to fish populations not only in Canada but also in the Koocanusa reservoir and the Kootenai River in the United States.

Despite more than three years of operations at West Line Creek, Teck’s treatment process has still not safely solved the selenium problem from that mine. Selenium-leaching waste rock dumps at all five of Teck’s Elk Valley mines continue to grow – and selenium levels in the Elk River and downstream continue to increase.

“Teck must do more to make sure selenium levels downstream of waste rock dumps are safe for fish,” said Ryland Nelson, Wildsight’s Southern Rockies Program Manager, “and we hope Environment Canada will continue their enforcement actions to push Teck to fix their water pollution problems.”

Meanwhile, expansions at four of Teck’s five open-pit coal mines in the Elk Valley have recently been approved by the BC Government and three new mines from other companies have been proposed, with more exploration ongoing.

“Without a proven, reliable selenium treatment method, increased mining in the area is unthinkable,” said Nelson, “it is time for the BC Government to stop entertaining new mines.”

Selenium levels in the Elk River currently far exceed BC’s water quality guidelines. Levels in the Koocanusa Reservoir, which spans the border, have exceeded US Environmental Protection Agency criteria.

“Excessive selenium levels, which have been found in fish tissue on both sides of the border, threaten reproduction and cause spinal and gill deformations in trout and other fish species,” said Ric Hauer, Professor of Limnology at the University of Montana. “Absent effective treatment, selenium is expected to continue leaching from waste rock dumps for generations.”

“The BC Government needs to step up and do much more to defend clean water and the world-class wildlife connectivity and habitat in the region,” said Candace Batycki, from Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, “instead of just approving more and more mining.”

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Contact:

Ryland Nelson, Wildsight, 250.531.0445

Ric Hauer, University of Montana, 406.250.9900

Candace Batycki, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, 250.352.3830

BACKGROUNDER:

The Elk River Valley, and the adjacent Flathead River Valley in the Southeastern corner of
British Columbia, are part of a critical connectivity corridor for wildlife along the Rocky
Mountains that spans across the national border. Large open-pit coal mines and
unsustainable logging practices threaten not just water, fish and other aquatic species, but
connectivity and habitat for grizzly bears and other mammals. The Elk and Flathead valleys
are an important part of the larger Crown of the Continent region that includes the
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Flathead Wild is a coalition of six Canadian and U.S. conservation groups: Canadian Parks
and Wilderness Society – BC Chapter, Headwaters Montana, National Parks Conservation
Association, Sierra Club BC, Wildsight, and Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.
The groups are working to permanently protect B.C.’s Flathead valley, long recognized as
the missing piece of the adjacent Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and World
Heritage Site. They are calling for a national park feasibility study in the southeastern
one-third of the Flathead, and a Wildlife Management Area in the rest of the valley and
adjoining habitat.

For more information visit www.flathead.ca

Feature Image by Michael Ready

Environmental groups applaud Ahousaht Land Use Vision

Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance supports Ahousaht leadership in conservation and community development goals announced today

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

January 25, 2017

TOFINO – This afternoon, the Ahousaht Hawiih (hereditary chiefs) publicly announced their nation’s new comprehensive Land Use Vision for their territory, which sits within the heart of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Representatives of the Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance (CSCA) (comprised of Greenpeace, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Sierra Club BC, STAND. earth and Wilderness Committee) were present to support and congratulate the Hawiih for this initiative.

“The Ahousaht Land Use Vision steps up to meet the environmental and social imperatives of the 21st century with solutions for rainforest conservation and community benefits within their famous territory, located in one of the most beautiful and ecologically rich landscapes in the world,” said Valerie Langer of Stand.earth (formerly ForestEthics), a member of the CSCA.

Under the Land Use Vision about 80 percent of Ahousaht territory will be set aside as cultural and natural areas “to conserve biological diversity, natural landscapes and wilderness, and to provide for Ahousaht continued spiritual, cultural and sustenance use.”

The new Land Use Vision was developed by the Maaqutusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society (MHSS) under the direction of the Hawiih, in consultation with the community of Ahousaht First Nation. It identifies different land use designations for their territory. The bold vision moves Ahousaht First Nation away from old-growth logging and other unsustainable industries in ecologically important rainforest areas while prioritizing low-impact, community-led economic development by and for the Ahousaht people. The vision follows the declaration of a moratorium on old-growth logging in Ahousaht territory, made by the Hawiih in 2015.

The organizations that form the Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance have been advocating for the protection of the region’s globally significant temperate rainforest for more than three decades.

Ahousaht First Nation traditional territory sits in the heart of Clayoquot Sound, which remains the largest area of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island.

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Read the Ahousaht land use vision

For more information, please contact:

Valerie Langer, Strategic Projects, STAND.earth (formerly ForestEthics) (604) 307-6448

Jens Wieting, Forests & Climate Campaigner, SierraClub BC (604) 354-5312

Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner, Wilderness Committee (250) 516-9900

Jeh Custerra, Campaigner, Friends of Clayoquot Sound (306) 361-7855

Eduardo Sousa, Senior Forests Campaigner, Greenpeace (778) 378-9955

 

Feature image by Jens Wieting

Pay up, Chevron: BC cities, towns challenged to hold fossil fuel industry accountable for climate impacts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 25, 2017

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – More than 50 community groups from across BC have signed onto an open letter arguing that fossil fuel companies owe BC communities for their fair share of the impacts of climate change. The letter was delivered to all 190 municipalities and regional districts in BC, asking them to demand accountability from the fossil fuel industry, up to and including considering lawsuits against Chevron and other big fossil fuel companies.

“Fighting climate change only works when everyone does their fair share. The fossil fuel industry expects communities to pay the costs to adapt and rebuild from climate impacts, while they pocket hundreds of billions of dollars of profits,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel with West Coast Environmental Law. “When communities demand accountability from fossil fuel companies, the industry will finally have an incentive to get out of the way of those who want to build a sustainable future – or, better yet, to start working with us.”

The open letter references the work of carbon accountant Richard Heede, who has calculated that pollution from the operations and products of the three largest fossil fuel companies alone (Chevron, Exxon and Saudi Aramco) represent almost 10% of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today. Just 90 entities – mostly fossil fuel companies – are responsible for about 2/3 of the historic greenhouse gas emissions.

Montana Burgess, Executive Director of the West Kootenay EcoSociety signed on to the letter because her rural region is already experiencing the impacts of carbon pollution.

“Thanks to global fossil fuel pollution, our communities are having to prepare for winters with less snow and much more rain. We’ve seen how this creates landslides, drought and forest fires at home, in the West Kootenays. Right now, ordinary people are paying for these costly disasters. Each community needs to do its part to transition off fossil fuels and get onto 100% renewable energy, but until Chevron, Exxon and the other big oil companies take responsibility for the harm caused by their products, we won’t get there on the global scale,” Burgess said.

The signatories to the letter – which include representatives of the environmental, health, human rights, women’s rights and faith sectors – point out that BC communities are already paying significant costs for the impacts of climate change. In addition to direct impacts – such as wildfires, flooding and the destruction of forests by the mountain pine beetle – communities also faced with the costs of preparing for expected impacts, such as paying to build infrastructure that can withstand rising sea levels, extreme weather, droughts and other climate impacts.

The Province of BC has estimated that Metro Vancouver Municipalities will need to spend $9.5 billion between now and 2100 to address rising sea-levels (about $100 million per year on average).

West Coast Environmental Law and many of the signatories are hoping to engage with and support local governments who pursue fossil fuel company accountability. West Coast has launched a website – climatelawinourhands.org – providing resources to help local governments draft letters to the fossil fuel industry, including template letters and fossil fuel company addresses. West Coast is also offering local governments legal research and support related to possible litigation against the fossil fuel companies.

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View the open letter to BC local governments

 

For more information, please contact:

 

Andrew Gage | Legal Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law

604-601-2506 (Vancouver) or 250-412-9784 (Victoria), andrew_gage@wcel.org

 

Anjali Appadurai | Climate Communications Specialist, West Coast Environmental Law

604-601-2504, anjali_appadurai@wcel.org

 

 

Quotes from signatories around the province:

“If the fossil fuel industry is prepared to endanger the integrity of creation by contributing so directly to changing the climate of the planet, they should at least be equally prepared to hold themselves accountable. Some of their profits come at the expense of communities and they should pay those costs.”

– Robert Hart, Knox United Church, Terrace

“Just as the tobacco companies are being forced to pay for the health costs they tried to hide, fossil fuel companies will be held to account for the damages from climate change. With a climate denier in the White House, it is now more important than ever for Canadians to take on a leadership role in forcing carbon polluters to stop putting communities at risk and to pay for the harm already being felt.”

– Keith Stewart, Greenpeace Canada

“Local governments are already on the front lines dealing with climate impacts like wildfires and drought. Making polluters pay will relieve the burden on local taxpayers and businesses.”

– Caitlyn Vernon, Sierra Club BC

“Protecting our environment is one of the ways we protect our health and that of future generations. British Columbia has an important responsibility to all Canadians to ensure that our energy policies are good for the health of populations and the planet. ”

– Cecelia Velasco, Public Health Association of BC

“For too long pollution profiteers have ignored climate change while expecting the rest of us to pay the tab. Now it’s time for them to pay up. Adapting to a warming world will cost BC communities billions of dollars — an impossible price tag that would rob us of money for transit, parks and just about everything else. Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for the fossil fuel industry’s willful negligence.”

– Peter McCartney, Wilderness Committee

“The fossil fuel industry began in earnest 150 years ago. But times have changed, and now we’ve run the course with fossil fuels, and it’s time to move on to better forms of energy, because now the harms far exceed the benefits. Those who cling to the old ways need to be persuaded that they must do their part to bring about this transition. If persuasion fails, then legal action is the obvious next step.”

– Warren Bell, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

“As people committed to the life and teachings of Jesus, we are challenged by his readiness to call the powerful to be accountable for their misuse and abuse of power. In the same spirit, we believe fossil fuel industries which profit from intensive greenhouse gas emissions should be financially accountable for the effects they are causing on our climate and the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. We encourage other people of faith and concerned citizens across BC to join hands in demanding these companies take responsibility for causing harmful climate impacts.”

– Jason Wood, EarthKeepers

“Climate change will affect all of us, and it will certainly affect salmon and the communities they feed. We urge our local governments to exercise every tool available, including the law, to demand accountability from the fossil fuel industry.”

– Heather Forbes, Salmon Coast Field Station Society

“Fossil fuel companies reap enormous profits from the remains of the ancient creatures and plants that they dig out of the ground as oil or other fossil fuels. The cost of cleaning up the mess left behind is usually paid for by the public. This is an untenable situation and the fossil fuel companies know it. They should be required to provide compensation for the costs associated with the environmental effects of their activities which contribute to the ever more extreme climate which the planet is suffering.”

– Gayle Neilson, Sunshine Coast Conservation Association

The Coral of Vancouver Island’s Rainforest – An unprotected underworld

By Mark Worthing

January 2017

This article was originally published in Island Parent Magazine.

Have you ever hiked through the forests of Vancouver Island and come across rivers bursting out of the ground from seemingly nowhere? Or have you followed the path of a creek to find that the rushing water disappears underground? If you have, you’re likely walking on a karst landscape with a complex cave system of limestone, dolomite or marble beneath your feet.

Photo by Charly Caproff

Photo by Charly Caproff.

Vancouver Island has more caves than all of Canada combined. These caves are a result of the large limestone deposits that span along its length. Where this soluble rock is exposed to rainwater or to the surface of the earth (epikarst), we call this a karst landscape.

Thousands upon thousands of years of rainwater carves the bedrock through alchemy and time. This forms the magical architecture of underworld sinkholes, caverns, caves and disappearing rivers. This phenomenon happens to correlate with Vancouver Island’s spectacular ancient rainforest.

If you were to take a flight above a karst forest, you’d see a richer colour in the forest canopy. The most productive salmon-bearing streams in coastal B.C. feature karst somewhere within their river system. These limestone deposits have the same basic chemistry as coral reefs, oyster shells, eggshells and antlers.

After the last Ice Age, rich nutrients were left behind by receding glaciers. These provided the food today’s old-growth trees needed to develop into some of the planet’s most unique and magnificent forests. Over time, that fertile topsoil has been sucked up into the trees and other plants, carrying on the lifecycle of ancient forest ecology. This has helped create towering nutrient-rich cedar, spruce and Douglas fir trees with roots clutching coral limestone bedrock.

This gift of glacial nutrients only comes once. It now exists only within the decomposition cycles of dead plant matter and fungus on the spongy forest floor. The topsoil has also been pulled down into valley bottoms and waterways, creating healthy salmon-bearing rivers and exposing the karst bedrock below.

When a karst landscape gets this nutrient gift, one of the most endangered ecosystems on Vancouver Island is created: old-growth karst forests.

Unlike Alaska and Washington where there is stringent protection, British Columbia has absolutely no legislated protection for karst landscapes or even caves. A Cave Protection Act has been tabled for first reading in the B.C. Legislature more than once and the U.S. federal Cave Resources Protection Act was made into law over three decades ago. Yet the logging industry’s death grip on the provincial government seems to block attempts for legislation. Karst or cave protection might damper logging companies’ profit margins, so there is little political will to regulate.

Photo by Tristan Crosby.

Photo by Tristan Crosby.

There is also no protection for rivers or creeks that ‘disappear’ underground. Logging and road building is legal on top of areas that could be massive cave and karst systems. Not only is this dangerous to workers and a risk to public health, but it is belligerent negligence of a fragile ecosystem.

The logging culture on northern Vancouver Island is extremely cavalier, which is unfortunate as the north end of the island has the most caves and karst landscape features. The legendary Maquinna Cave near Tahsis has had its entrance covered and desecrated with logging and road-building debris. Logging-caused slides near Holberg have flooded out entire cave systems and clogged water drainage systems older than the country of Canada.

The forest of the Walbran Valley and northern Vancouver Island’s East Creek sit on top of karst limestone. Within the Flathead Valley of B.C.’s southern Rockies lies the deepest cave systems in North America. All of these cave systems are vulnerable without legislated cave or karst protection.

Yet there is hope for these magnificent places. First Nations leaders are asserting sovereignty over their lands and sacred cave sites. The Horne Lake Caves boast 17,000 visitors per year, and they recently received Destination B.C.’s first-ever Remarkable Experiences Award. Through ecotourism and parks, the public is becoming more and more engaged with the fascinating and fragile world below the roots of the ancient forests of Vancouver Island. So get out there and explore!

Feature image by Charly Caproff.

NGOs outraged as BC government admits culling is inhumane, yet considers cull expansion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

January 20, 2017 (Golden, BC) – A recent provincial government document that recommends expanding aerial gunning of wolves, along with increased hunting of mountain lions and deer has been met with outrage by environmental and animal welfare groups. The proposal to expand culling and hunting is a misguided attempt to recover caribou herds in the Revelstoke-Shuswap region.

The document’s authors, who are academic and government scientists of British Columbia’s Mountain Caribou Recovery Program, admit “There are no humane methods to directly reduce wolf numbers, but aerial removal is the only method of killing enough wolves (and entire packs) to reduce wolf densities with no risk of by-catch.”

Aerial gunning fails to comply with ethical guidelines set by the Canadian Council on Animal Care, as it is not considered an acceptable form of euthanasia. The BC government also accepts strangling snares as a killing method in this and other management plans. Research shows that many wolves killed by aerial gunning and neck snaring die a slow and excruciatingly painful death.

Gunning wolves from helicopters and using strangling snares on the ground have been the main tools used in an ongoing experiment to recover caribou herds protected by federal law. These herds were pushed to the brink of extinction not because of wolves, but due to continued destruction and fragmentation of their habitat by logging, resource extraction and motorized recreation.

Chris Genovali, executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation, said:

“Those involved in planning the expanded wolf and cougar kill disregard the considerable damage that scientists understand happens in ecosystems when top predators are removed, and callously exhibit an indifference to the suffering experienced by wolf families as pack members are killed.”

Recommendations made a decade ago (2007) by government and independent scientists to protect 34,000 hectares of habitat to recover caribou herds in the Revelstoke-Shuswap area have been ignored and eroded so much as to become meaningless. Virginia Thompson, a resident of Revelstoke formerly associated with the Mountain Caribou Project who has been monitoring land-use plans, logging, and caribou management in her local area, explains:

“Ultimately, almost no land was retained in the Timber Harvesting Land Base in the 2007 Recovery Plan.”

“We are utterly stunned to see such a backward wildlife strategy out of the BC government,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director for Humane Society International/Canada. “The Liberal government seems to be stuck in the 19th century as wolves are still being scapegoated at the hands of wildlife mismanagement.”

BC’s caribou recovery plan is still pitched as a great conservation commitment at the sacrifice of industrial and recreational interests, yet it has never resulted in protecting sufficient habitat to support caribou in the long-term.

“Attempting to recover caribou herds that have dipped well below the critical threshold for short-term survival in habitat that can’t support much growth is like trying to put humpty dumpty back together again,” said Sadie Parr, executive director of Wolf Awareness Inc. “It cannot be done! Killing predators, no matter how many, will not change this.”

Gross mismanagement of species at risk in BC, a province with no endangered species law, results in unethical culls of predators and competing species. To avoid such conservation dilemmas, the BC government must adequately protect the habitat of at-risk species in the first place.

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Background Information:

There were approximately 9900ha of status quo Timber Harvesting Land Base going into the 2007 Caribou Recovery Plan. 10,000ha THLB was retained in the 2007 Recovery Plan, but 2600ha was counted from status quo retained land, leaving 7400ha of new protection. Then in 2011, a Biodiversity Amendment to the Revelstoke Higher Level Land Use Plan was invoked which allowed timber companies to log a minimum of 6,000 ha of Old Growth Management Areas as compensation for what logging was lost to caribou protection in the 2007 Recovery Plan.

Media contacts:

Sadie Parr – Wolf Awareness Inc Executive Director
Ph: 250-272-4695 sadieparrwolfpact@gmail.com

Chris Genovali – Raincoast Conservation Foundation Executive Director
Ph: 250-888-3579 chris@raincoast.org

Virginia Thompson – Revelstoke resident formerly associated with the Mountain Caribou Project
Ph: 250-200-0002 vjwthompson2003@yahoo.ca

Christopher Paré – HSI/Canada: c. 438-402-0643, email: cpare@hsi.org

Groups endorsing media release:

• Animal Alliance of Canada – Liz White, Director
• Animal Protection Party of Canada – Jordan Reichert, BC Representative
• Bears Matter –Barb Murray, Executive Director
• Bear With Us – Mike McIntosh, Executive Director
• Born Free – Barry Kent McKay, Canadian Representative, and Senior Program Associate
• British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) – Sara Dubois, Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Manager of Scientific Programs
• Cochrane Research Institute – Clio Smeeton, Director
• Coyote Watch Canada – Lesley Sampson, Founder and Executive Director
• Earthroots – Amber Ellis, Executive Director
• Humane Society International – Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director
• National Wolfwatcher Coalition – Nancy Warren, Executive Director
• Pacific Wild – Ian McAllister, Executive Director
• Raincoast Conservation Foundation –Chris Genovali, Executive Director
• Sierra Club BC – Bob Peart, Executive Director
• The Fur-Bearers –Lesley Fox, Executive Director
• Wilderness Committee – Gwen Barlee, Executive Director
• Wildlife Defence League – Tommy Knowles, Executive Director
• Wolf Awareness Inc. –Sadie Parr, Executive Director
• Wolf Conservation Centre – Maggie Howell Executive Director
• World Animal Protection – Beth Sharpe, Communications Director
Background documents:
Maintaining ethical standards during conservation crises:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272153185_Maintaining_ethical_standards_during_conservatio
n_crises

Witnessing extinction: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/274320654_Witnessing_extinction_-
_Cumulative_impacts_across_landscapes_and_the_future_loss_of_an_evolutionarily_significant_unit_of
_woodland_caribou_in_Canada

 

Featured image: Jethro Taylor, Flickr Creative Commons.

Green Jobs BC: Working together toward a just transition

By Tim Pearson

January 5 2016

The health of our economy cannot be separated from the health of our environment.

The myth that we have to choose between the two is peddled by forces opposed to increased environmental protection and effective climate action—forces that stand to profit from destructive megaprojects and the endless extraction of finite resources.

And let’s face it—they have been quite successful at it: the myth endures.

So it’s worth asking ourselves, have we been unwittingly perpetuating it, instead of undermining it?

Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow: BC's Green Jobs Conference 2016. Photo courtesy of Green Jobs BC.

Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow: BC’s Green Jobs Conference 2016. Photo courtesy of Green Jobs BC.

When we, as environmental voices, focus too much on what we are against—be it the logging of old growth, or fracking, or an oil pipeline—and neglect to talk about what we are for, we play into the hands of our opponents. We are then pitted against resource-dependent communities, the unemployed, underemployed and marginalized, and those who fear for their economic security.

The media build this narrative by highlighting stories featuring conflict, as this is what attracts the audience they want.

Environmentalists—often disproportionately urban, middle class and white—have been successfully caricatured as a privileged cohort who can “afford” to oppose development, while less fortunate folks must suffer the consequences in the form of lost opportunities and jobs.

And yet the reality is that we are all in this climate change boat together. To steer a new course we need everyone’s skills and expertise, solutions that work for everyone, and everyone’s buy-in and support.

justtransition_sidebarTo achieve long-lasting solutions, we need to build a broad and sustainable political consensus on the need for action. All of society needs to work together for a future that supports sustainable jobs in a healthy environment, a future that leaves no-one behind.

That’s why Sierra Club BC’s participation on the Steering Committee of Green Jobs BC is so important.

Green Jobs BC is a coalition of environmental organizations and organized labour. The coalition shares a vision of an inclusive, sustainable economy that provides good jobs, is socially just, protects the environment and reduces carbon emissions.

Late in November, I attended the Green Jobs BC conference in New Westminster.

Some of the most interesting discussions I had there were around the concept of a “just transition” to a post-carbon economy. What is a just transition?

A just transition means that the burden of change will not be placed disproportionately on a few.

It means that those who are most vulnerable to change will be protected.

It means that the process of shifting to a post-carbon economy will increase social justice for workers, women, the poor, and all oppressed groups.

A just transition is essential to achieve and maintain the broad political consensus necessary to allow climate protection policies to work in the long run.

Many attendees from organized labour pointed out to me that all too often mere lip service is paid to the concept of just transition.

Irene Lanzinger, President of the B.C. Federation of Labour, asked me what I think would happen if a displaced worker who used to earn $40 an hour was told they will get retraining, but that training qualifies them for work that pays half as much. Well, pretty clearly, that worker isn’t going to buy into this plan. That worker will see the transition as anything but just for him or her and their family.

This is one of the reasons why we as a society have to take the concerns of workers seriously as we tackle climate change. And that is why environmentalists, labour and social justice advocates must work together, just as we are through Green Jobs BC.

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Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow: BC’s Green Jobs Conference 2016. Photo courtesy of Green Jobs BC.

We need to find climate solutions in which workers in all parts of the province can see a secure future for themselves; a shared vision that will inspire all of us to put our shoulder to the wheel and make happen.

How do we do that? Those of us who identify more as ‘environmentalist’ than ‘worker’ can start by listening and learning, to ensure that what we are asking for is more inclusive. We can study labour history, and learn the ways that unions have improved the rights of all workers over the decades. We can organize in our communities in ways that build relationships with union locals, incorporate diverse views and voices into the changes we are calling for, and invite workers to our events and rallies. In turn, we can start showing up in support on picket lines or finding other ways to show our solidarity.

The exploitation of the environment is intimately tied to the exploitation of workers. The quest for profit above all other values has driven the erosion of worker rights just as surely as it has the erosion of environmental protections.

“Nothing about us without us” is organized labour’s refrain. When we as environmentalists include workers in our discussions, strategizing and actions (and vice versa), we will build dialogue, trust and ultimately a powerful alliance.

And out of that alliance we can build the broad political consensus necessary to allow climate protection policies to work in the long run.