Over the years, conversations with British Columbians about species at risk have identified that all British Columbians should be responsible for protecting species at risk. Most British Columbians agree it is important to take action to protect and recover species at risk, however not everyone would be impacted equally by the necessary recovery actions.
As a hypothetical example, imagine two farmers (A and B). If farmer A discovers a species at risk on the land he farms, he may be expected to take some action where the species lives in order to protect the species or its habitat. This may require changing how he runs his farm, or how much crop he can plant, or otherwise adding costs to his operations. In contrast, farmer B, has no species at risk on the land she farms. She would not have to do or change anything, and her livelihood would not be affected by having to protect a species at risk.
Nonetheless, farmer B will receive the benefits of the actions farmer A took to protect the species at risk, as will other citizens of B.C., as well as future generations.
There are a number of ways to approach this issue of fairness. A few are outlined below as examples.
- The government could compensate farmer A for the cost of his actions,which would distribute the cost burdern across all BC taxpayers.
- The government could create an incentive program to help farmer A receive benefits from the action taken.
- The government could create a tax-shifting plan to ensure all landowners share in the cost of protecting species at risk by paying minimal increases to their property taxes.
- Agreements could be used to allow farmer A to protect the species at risk for a certain number of years, but allow him to change his commitment to protection after the agreement is over.
- The government could create a process where farmer A, farmer B, and others in the area could work together to determine a fair outcome, and be held accountable to the process.
There are similar hypothetical examples that could be applied to industries other than agriculture: mining, forestry, fishing, etc. The same questions remain.
- What does fairness mean to you in the context of protecting species at risk?
- If you had a species at risk on the land where you live or work and you were required to change the way you do things, what would help you feel like the action you had to take was reasonable?