1 Our History | West Coast Environmental Law


Our History


In 2013, West Coast Environmental Law was the co-recipient of a 2013 Award for Excellence from the Planning Institute of BC for our guide Preparing for Climate Change: An Implementation Guide for Local Governments in British Columbia.

As of 2013, over two million hectares of BC land are managed according to the Forestry Stewardship Council BC Regional Standards. West Coast Environmental Law was one of the principal drafters of this “good wood” certification standard for BC, which independently verifies that wood products come from forests that are managed in an ecologically and socially responsible way.

In 2012 West Coast Environmental Law Association and a core group of allies launched Black Out Speak Out/Silence en parle, a national campaign to speak out against the gutting of our environmental laws via the federal omnibus budget bills, C-38 and C-45. The campaign included over 600 environmental, labour, political, human rights, faith, and First Nations groups representing millions of Canadians. These efforts, along with the Association’s “No Habitat-No Fish” social media campaign and community outreach on proposed changes to the federal Fisheries Act,
contributed to delaying the implementation of these changes for over a year.

West Coast has played a key, ongoing role in the shaping of many of Canada’s foundational environmental laws including those related to environmental assessment and fisheries (such as the original Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that was gutted by our federal government in 2012). West Coast continues to be a key voice during law-making and other processes in advocating for strengthened environmental assessment laws, both federally and

In 2012 West Coast Environmental Law provided legal support to the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs in negotiating the Gitanyow Huwilp Recognition and Reconciliation Agreement, an agreement between the Province of British Columbia and the Gitanyow Nation, which recognizes a land use plan developed to protect the Gitanyow ancestral lands (approximately 6,300 square kilometers in the mid-Nass and Skeena River watersheds). This landmark agreement will not only provide lasting benefits to the people of this Nation, it will also open the door to the implemenatation of similar innovative land use models throughout BC.

In 2011 the BC Forest Carbon Offset Protocol was released, enabling government regulated forest carbon offset projects based on conservation for the first time in BC. West Coast Environmental Law was deeply involved in the development and implementation of the protocol, and was the only environmental organization invited to participate in the Technical Working Group that provided input into its drafting. The Protocol opens up legal space for recognition of conservation-oriented forest carbon projects like the Gitanyow project referenced above.

Oil and Gas Activities Act Considers Environment: Key elements of West Coast Environmental Law’s longstanding critique of BC’s oil and gas laws were addressed in the 2008 Oil and Gas Activities Act, which strengthens environmental protection and landowner consultation in the oil and gas sector, and in other government initiatives.

Coal Bed Methane Development Halted: West Coast Environmental Law’s Coal Bed Methane education campaign contributed to a two year moratorium on Coal Bed Methane development in the Sacred Headwaters and a voluntary deferral of Coal Bed Methane development in the Similkameen Valley by an oil and gas company.

Since 2000:

West Coast Environmental Law was the legal team behind the landmark law reform that protected the Great Bear Rainforest. Our lawyers negotiated the pivotal amendments to the provincial Park Act that created a new Conservancy designation, safeguarding this natural treasure. Today, two million hectares of the Great Bear Rainforest are protected from logging.

West Coast Environmental Law’s Smart Bylaws Guide details approaches to urban development that minimize impact on the environment, result in thriving, livable communities, and produce both affordable housing and lower municipal infrastructure costs. First published in 2004, this web-based guide is our most popular resource, resulting in thousands of website visits each year.

In 2003, twenty per cent of forest tenure licenses were redistributed to First Nations, communities, and small business as a result of West Coast Environmental Law’s Forest Solutions campaign.

The ‘90s …

Kyoto Leadership: West Coast Environmental Law was one of the first environmental law organizations to work on climate change issues in Canada. We were part of the Canadian delegation that negotiated the Kyoto protocol.

West Coast played the lead role in developing BC’s first Contaminated Sites Regulations.

Law Decreases Gasoline Emissions: West Coast played a key role in BC’s Clean Vehicles & Fuels Initiative, which in turn influences the federal government to mandate cleaner cars and announce a 30 PPM sulphur limit in gasoline.

West Coast introduced new pulp mill regulations requiring all pulp mills in the province to eliminate organochlorines. These were among the most stringent in the world and used as models for legislation world-wide.

A report by West Coast Environmental Law led directly to the enactment of BC laws allowing “conservation covenants” – private rights to have certain environmental features protected. These laws have resulted in the protection of hundreds of thousands of hectares of ecologically significant lands and the birth of the land trust movement in British Columbia.

West Coast provided improvements to BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which became the strongest set of such laws in Canada.

The earlier years….

West Coast contributed to the creation of the BC Environmental Appeal Board through the Environmental Management Act.

Our work with BC’s Royal Commission of Inquiry into Uranium Mining culminates in the provincial government putting in place a moratorium on uranium mining, which has recently been reinstated.

West Coast represented the Peace Valley Environmental Association at hearings on the Site C dam.

West Coast obtained an injunction against the experimental use of the pesticide Garlon within a traditional First Nations fishing area on the Skeena River.

West Coast played a critical role in the development of the federal Canadian Environmental Protection Act, with 70 of our recommendations adopted.

West Coast established the Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund – legal aid for BC’s environment.