Biodiversity & ecosystem health to be legally established as ‘overarching priorities’ for all sectors
xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) & səl̓ilwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Territories/VANCOUVER — Lawyers at West Coast Environmental Law are applauding BC’s commitment to co-develop new legislation giving effect to a draft Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Framework released today, while noting that immediate actions are required to halt and reverse nature loss in BC and to recognize and support Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas.
“I never thought I’d see the day that ecosystem-based planning and management, the approach used in the Great Bear Rainforest, was on the cusp of becoming legally required throughout BC,” said Jessica Clogg of West Coast Environmental Law. “If a new Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Law fulfills its promise, it will be truly game-changing.”
But, Clogg warns, given that co-developing a new law will take some time, “BC must take immediate legal steps to prioritize biodiversity and ecosystem health in all resource decisions – and to recognize Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas declared by First Nations – so that plans and tenures issued today don’t lock in further ecological loss for our children.”
Ecosystem-based management focuses on ensuring the coexistence of healthy, fully functioning ecosystems and human communities. The Framework describes a proposed paradigm shift from BC’s current land management system, which prioritizes resource extraction (subject to constraints) to a future that is proactive, prioritizes the conservation and management of ecosystem health and biodiversity, and is implemented jointly with title and rights holders.
“True co-development of a new Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Law with First Nations will be crucial,” said Whitney Lafreniere Vicente, Staff Lawyer. “New legal designations and approaches must be designed to enable each Nation’s distinct legal order, vision, plans and decisions, and recognize the integral role of First Nations’ management in shaping ecosystem conditions that allow all beings to thrive.”
“It was disappointing to see that the draft Framework made no mention of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, a successful approach to conservation being advanced by many First Nations in BC,” said Vicente.
The Framework proposes the creation of an Office of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health, who would play a key role in developing Indigenous and Western science-based objectives and standards that would apply across resource sectors to “maintain and enhance biodiversity, ecological integrity, and ecological resilience across the province.”
The Framework is expected to be finalized in early 2024, following consultation.
For more information, please contact:
Jessica Clogg | Executive Director & Senior Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law
Whitney Lafreniere Vicente | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law