Join us as we tackle government and industry spin to shed a light on the current state of old-growth forests in B.C.
Sierra Club BC reacts to the outcome of the provincial Natural Gas Royalty Review.
May 19, 2022
Unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and səlilwətaɬ territories (VANCOUVER, BC) — Sierra Club BC welcomes today’s announcement about the end of the Deep Well Royalty Credit and several other ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies. However, the environmental organization is extremely concerned about the creation of a new “revenue minus cost” system that allows companies to pay a minimum revenue rate until their drilling costs are paid off, a continuation of subsidizing the fossil fuel industry in the middle of the climate emergency.
Sierra Club BC calls for an immediate end to all types of fossil fuel subsidies and a detailed plan for a just transition, banning fracking as the next step, followed by winding down the fossil fuel industry. This is consistent with the latest scientific findings about the needed emission reductions to avoid catastrophic climate change.
“Today’s announcement must be the first step on the path towards ending fracking and a just transition with the goal of winding down BC’s fossil fuel industry. For too long, BC’s climate plans have been characterized by reducing emissions with one hand, while increasing them with the other, through support and subsidies for new LNG terminals and expanded fracking operations,” said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner.
For decades, B.C.’s royalty system supported oil and gas production through low royalty rates and subsidies in the form of “royalty credits”, in recent years particularly with the Deep Well Credit to enable fracking which is now used for 90 percent of production. These credits have fueled climate pollution and dramatically reduced public revenue from extracting non-renewable resources.
Today’s step must be quickly followed by the missing plan that spells out how the province will meet the 2030 target for BC’s oil and gas sector to reduce its emissions by 33 – 38 %, as well as the needed contribution to the 2025 target to reduce BC’s emissions by 16 % (all targets compared to 2007 emissions).
A new paper published in Environmental Research Letters this Tuesday showed that globally, nearly half of existing fossil fuel production sites must be shut down early if global heating is to be limited to 1.5C, the internationally agreed goal for avoiding catastrophic climate change impacts. The scientists found that “staying within a 1.5 °C carbon budget (50% probability) implies leaving almost 40% of ‘developed reserves’ of fossil fuels unextracted.”
Read Sierra Club BC’s submission to BC’s royalty review process here.
In March, Sierra Club BC and Ecojustice took legal action over the provincial government’s failure to produce climate action plans for several key targets tied to BC’s climate change accountability law. Read it here.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner/Science Advisor, Sierra Club BC
604-354 5312, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sylvie Yang is the Digitial Engagement Assistant at Sierra Club BC.
New research combining archaeological, ecological data and traditional ecological knowledge has identified ancient orchards and forest gardens on Nootka Island, located off the west coast of Vancouver Island, demonstrating active Indigenous cultivation on the land.
May 25, 2022
Unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and səlilwətaɬ territories (VANCOUVER, BC) — New research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, shines a light on how Nuchatlaht (Nuu-chah-nulth) people have cultivated plant foods in their ḥaḥuułiʔakʔi (“Ha-houl-thee”, territory) since time immemorial. Forest gardens — ecosystems stewarded for their fruit, berry, and root plants — were recently identified on Nootka Island by Nuchatlaht knowledge holders, archaeologists and botanists at Simon Fraser University and the New York Botanical Garden.
“These orchards and forest gardens are unlike anything growing in ‘natural’ ecological distributions of plant species, demonstrating active Indigenous cultivation on the land and concerted efforts to manage forests in ways recognizable to western European food cultivation worldviews,” said Dr. Chelsey Geralda Armstrong, an assistant professor of Indigenous Studies at Simon Fraser University who has been working with Nuchatlaht Nation for over a year.
This is the first academic research project to document the material evidence of cultivation and land stewardship in Nuchatlaht territory, including practices like ciciḥʔaqƛmapt (crabapple) orcharding, quuxʷap̓aḥ (rice root) gardening, qawii (berry) patch stewarding, and controlled burning.
The research also shows how these ancient food-forests, some with trees hundreds of years old, continue to grow adjacent to large archaeological village sites on Nootka Island despite government displacement and harmful logging practices. The research was solicited by Nuchatlaht Nation, who are pursuing a claim of Aboriginal Title to roughly 200 square kilometres of Northern Nootka Island. Their case is currently being heard in the B.C. Supreme Court.
“These forest gardens demonstrate how our laws were activated through our people and through the living knowledge of the land and water itself,” said Tyee Haw̓ił Jordan Michael of the Nuchatlaht Nation. “These ancient forest gardens were not tended by the British, they were stewarded by my people long before the queen knew the taste of crabapple.”
Despite the government’s endorsement and adoption of UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous People), the provincial government has refused to recognize the Nuchatlaht’s rights to their ḥaḥuułiʔakʔi (territory) with lawyers claiming in court that the First Nation ‘abandoned’ their territory.
Researchers, industry, and the provincial government often fail to acknowledge that Indigenous peoples’ actively tended and stewarded both terrestrial and aquatic landscapes in their homelands. Outdated and prejudiced labels like “hunter-gatherers” have not been helpful in countering this narrative. Nor are the labels accurate, considering the extent to which so-called “hunter-gatherers”— globally and through time — cultivated and modified their lived environment, sometimes across millennia. The failure of previous Western thinkers to recognize the extent of Indigenous cultivation has lent to the myth that Indigenous peoples did not use the land, when in fact they were actively managing their territories.
“Indigenous peoples’ legacies of plant cultivation and management can have profound effects on contemporary forest structure and species composition long after traditional cultivation was oppressed by colonial governments,” added Dr. Chelsey Geralda Armstrong. “This work builds on previous research showing that contemporary plant communities that appear ‘wild’ may in fact reflect legacies of historical and ancient plant stewardship.”
The research further demonstrates Nuchatlaht stewardship by documenting over 8,000 culturally-modified trees located deep within Nootka Island’s forests. The dense concentration of archaeological sites and modified ecosystems indicates Nuchatlaht people actively occupied, managed, and utilized their territory. They did this from the worldview hishuk’ish tsawalk (everything is one).
“Learning to see the land in a different way and understand cultural keystone ecosystems as part of Indigenous food sovereignty stewardship is critical for non-Indigenous people to deepen our appreciation for how Indigenous love and care has created the ecosystems we normally observe without the knowledge to see,” said Sierra Club BC Coastal Projects Lead Mark Worthing, who also worked on the project.
This new research not only shows how the Nuchatlaht actively managed large tracts of nisma (lands) in their ḥaḥuułiʔakʔi (territory),it also invites non-Indigenous people living within Indigenous territories to educate themselves on the extent of Indigenous involvement in the creation of the landscapes around us and their continuing management.
“Once you start spending time on the land you can see the characteristic landscapes of Indigenous stewardship are everywhere, from the tops of mountains to the bottoms of valleys,” added Worthing.
Photos of field work available here.
The online version of the article in the Journal of Archaeological Science is available here.
Download a PDF copy of the article published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Dr. Chelsey Geralda Armstrong | Assistant Professor, Indigenous Studies, Simon Fraser University
+1(604) 346-8824 | email@example.com
Nuchatlaht Nation media inquiries | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Worthing | Coastal Projects Lead, Sierra Club BC
250-889-3575 | email@example.com
Owen Stewart | Legal council
778-348-2356 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sierra Club BC offers the following statement following the B.C. government’s response to SCBC’s legal challenge over its climate plan.
May 4, 2022
The B.C. government has responded to Sierra Club BC’s climate accountability lawsuit we filed with the help of charity law firm Ecojustice. Sadly, instead of accepting responsibility and beginning the urgent work to address the blind spots we have identified, the province is alleging that we are going to court just to get the plans we want. The reality, however, is that several plans for key climate targets laid out in B.C.’s 2019 law simply don’t exist in the province’s 2021 accountability report.
We’re holding them to account in accordance with the letter of the law, as it’s written. There is no doubt from our perspective that B.C.’s climate accountability legislation requires the government to publish plans to make progress towards all of B.C.’s climate targets, but they have failed to produce these plans for 2025, 2040 and 2050. Also non-existent is the crucial plan for the oil and gas industry that shows how B.C. can possibly meet its ambitious 2030 target for this sector, while at the same time continuing to support and subsidize new LNG terminals and more fracking (for more background see our March 31 media release here).
The B.C. government argues that the public cannot hold them accountable in the courts if they fail to meet the requirements of their climate accountability law. But laws written by governments in Canada are routinely subject to public scrutiny in the courts. It’s a cornerstone of our democracy and the rule of law that the public should access the judicial system to demand fairness, transparency, and accountability. Why would B.C.’s climate legislation not be subject to scrutiny by the public through the courts? The disappointing response from the province shows the importance of the courts in ensuring climate accountability.
The latest IPCC reports showed unequivocally that time is running out to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis, that further global warming can only be stopped once we have achieved net zero emissions, and pollution must be cut as quickly as possible. We are calling on the B.C. government to come forward with a plan for every target and every sector of the economy, including oil and gas.
We are in a climate emergency and it’s not too late for the B.C. government to deliver on their promise and address the crucial blind spots. Stay tuned as we continue to report updates on the progress of this lawsuit.
For more information on why Sierra Club BC and Ecojustice are going to court over blind spots in B.C.’s climate plans go to our joint March 2022 media release:
Read more about the provincial response in this article: https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/highlights/bcs-climate-laws-should-not-be-overseen-by-courts-claim-court-documents-5322790
IPCC media release: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner/Science Advisor, Sierra Club BC
604-354 5312, email@example.com
Federal environment minister’s Protection Statement weakens vital habitat protection provision under Species at Risk Act.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 28, 2022
VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – Environmental groups are suing the federal government for failing to protect the critical habitats of at-risk migratory birds across Canada. This includes the threatened marbled murrelet, a seabird that relies on coastal old growth forest for nesting in British Columbia.
The lawsuit, which Ecojustice filed in Federal Court on behalf of Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee, alleges that Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault is failing to meet his statutory duties to ensure the protection of habitat necessary for the survival and recovery of at-risk migratory birds.
At issue in the lawsuit is a protection statement issued by Guilbeault. The groups say the statement relies on an overly narrow interpretation of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to limit critical habitat protection for at least 25 at-risk migratory bird species, including the marbled murrelet.
Andhra Azevedo, lawyer, Ecojustice said:
“The Protection Statement issued by Minister Guilbeault sets a dangerously narrow interpretation of the federal government’s duty to protect critical habitat of at-risk migratory birds under SARA. It only protects migratory bird nests, not any other parts of the habitat necessary for the survival and recovery of at-risk migratory birds. This threatens the survival of vulnerable species, like the marbled murrelet, who face increasing threats of habitat loss from both natural and human-caused threats like the logging of old growth forests and the impacts of climate change.
“The Species at Risk Act plays a critical role in protecting endangered and threatened species and their habitats. A robust interpretation of the Act is essential to protect and restore vulnerable species and their habitats and hold those who damage habitat to account.
“In the face of the mounting biodiversity crisis, it is imperative the federal government protect critical forest habitat to support the recovery of at-risk species, including the marbled murrelet.”
Charlotte Dawe, Conservation and Policy Campaigner, Wilderness Committee said:
“It’s a no-brainer that species at risk need habitat to survive and recover. When the federal government fumbles and fails to follow their own law, endangered wildlife pay the price. Marbled murrelets and many other species have paid that price time and time again. Now we’re taking action to stop this from ever happening again.”
“The alarm bells are ringing — we’re in the middle biodiversity crisis. We need to strengthen laws that protect species at risk. This protection statement will only allow for more habitat loss. It’s a massive step in the wrong direction when we can afford it the least.”
“What good is a law to protect species at risk if it doesn’t protect the habitat wildlife needs to survive? The new statement is equivalent to protecting a bed in someone’s home while setting the rest of it on fire and expecting that person to carry on like nothing’s wrong.”
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC said:
“The sixth extinction is accelerating globally, in Canada and in BC, largely driven by habitat destruction, now exacerbated by the climate crisis. We need every level of government to do their part to stop the unraveling of the web of life as we know it. Legislation and its interpretation must be based on the habitat needs of Marbled Murrelets and other species for their survival, not wishful thinking. The regulatory landscape needs strengthening today, not tomorrow.”
More about this lawsuit
Habitat loss is the main cause of decline for more than 95 per cent of at-risk species on land. Protecting threatened and endangered bird species requires protecting the ecosystems they depend upon for survival and recovery, including forests and other wildlands.
Under SARA, the minister is required to ensure protection of critical habitat for at-risk migratory birds on provincial lands to which the Migratory Bird Convention Act (MBCA) applies. However, the minister has taken the position that the federal government has no obligation to protect anything other than bird nests on provincial lands.
This is bad news for all at-risk migratory birds in Canada. Among these is the marbled murrelet, a small, threatened, migratory seabird that nests high in the mossy branches of old growth trees in British Columbia. The birds only approach or leave their nests under the cover of darkness, making the nests nearly impossible to find and difficult to protect.
The main threat to the marbled murrelet’s survival and recovery is logging of their nesting habitat. Surveys conducted in some of the last intact old-growth areas on Southern Vancouver Island in 2021 revealed over 300 marbled murrelet detections overtop of a proposed cutblock in the Ada’itsx (Fairy Creek) watershed on Pacheedaht territory. This habitat was outside the deferral area and was set to be logged by Teal-Jones Group. No action was taken to stop logging because the nests themselves could not be identified. The cutblock was logged roughly a week after the federal and provincial governments were notified of the marbled murrelet detections.
Plant and animal species are the foundation of a healthy ecosystem. When a species like the marbled murrelet becomes threatened, it is a sign the ecosystem is deteriorating. Each species that is lost triggers spillover effects within its ecosystem, including the loss of other species.
B.C. is the most biodiverse province in Canada and the one with the most species at-risk. These two facts are linked. The province is one of the few in Canada without specific legislation to protect endangered species, which leaves B.C.’s biodiversity virtually unprotected and vulnerable to the impacts of logging, mining, and other industrial activities. This makes the federal government’s responsibility under SARA to protect critical habitat of at-risk species in the province all the more important.
Recent years have seen a rise in tangible habitat threats such as wildfires, heatwaves, and the logging of old growth forests, leaving endangered species increasingly vulnerable to extinction. A recent analysis of 492 wildlife species protected under SARA found that the status of 64 per cent of them has not improved, while the status of 18 per cent has worsened. By allowing the continued destruction of critical habitat for at risk species, the government is accelerating the biodiversity crisis.
This case has larger implications for habitat protection for bird species across Canada. If the groups are successful, the federal government would have to take steps to ensure protection of the habitat and ecosystems bird species are embedded in, rather than just applying often-ineffective measures to protect nests. This could in turn lead to the protection of more old growth forests and other habitat important to migratory birds.
Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.
Sierra Club BC is an environmental non-profit working to support people stewarding abundant ecosystems and a stable climate, while building resilient, equitable communities. The organization strives to do this by upholding Indigenous rights and title, reconnecting children and youth with nature, supporting grassroots-led climate action, and advocating for old growth protection, a rapid shift away from fossil fuels and a just transition for industry workers.
Wilderness Committee protects life-giving biological diversity in Canada through strategic research, community mobilizing and grassroots public education. As the people powered wilderness preservation group, we unite 60,000 supporters, volunteers and activists from coast to coast to coast, working together to preserve wilderness, protect wildlife, defend parks, safeguard public resources and fight for a stable and healthy climate. We have offices in Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg and Toronto.
For more information, please contact:
Zoryana Cherwick, Communications Specialist | Ecojustice
1-800-926-7744 ext. 277, firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlotte Dawe, Conservation and Policy Campaigner | Wilderness Committee
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner | Sierra Club BC
Photo: A marbled murrelet chick by Aaron Allred.