Discussion #5 – How can we make protecting species at risk fair for everyone?

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.

  1. The government could compensate farmer A for the cost of his actions,which would distribute the cost burdern across all BC taxpayers.
  2. The government could create an incentive program to help farmer A receive benefits from the action taken.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?


3 responses to “Discussion #5 – How can we make protecting species at risk fair for everyone?

    User avatar
    [-] Scott

    The first four suggested examples of how to approach the issue of fairness have merit. However, farmers need to protect the species for however long they remain a SAR. The last suggestion is too subjective, especially in a competitive environment between farmers.
    Farmers need to be incentivized to participate, with mitigation provided to landowners as required.
    Landowners need to be involved in the process as a respected and valued member of the team, so that there is a sense of ownership and accountability, where they are able to see the impacts of their actions, both positive and negative.

    User avatar
    [-] Amy

    I think that any incentive programs should provide funding in advance, after the receipt of a proposal for action. The fifth item is unlikely to work in practice, as most farmers (industry folks) don’t have a significant amount of time to collaborate on individual projects. It would make sense for all ‘farmer A’ types to come together for accountability, as they are all committed. I support an increase in property taxes to create this kind of incentive program, I value habitat protection and recognize that we must pay to undue the harms of the past.

    User avatar
    [-] Ducks

    Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), and The Nature Trust of BC (NTBC) would like to underscore our overarching support for efforts taken to conserve species at risk, to support biodiversity and to promote healthy fish and wildlife populations, and we applaud this government for its commitment to introducing this stand-alone legislation for the conservation and protection of species at risk in British Columbia.

    As BC’s only province-wide land trusts, DUC, NCC and NTBC share a common interest in the conservation of natural areas and biological diversity throughout BC and have a long history of collaboration with the Province of BC. The Pacific Estuary Conservation Program, the BC Trust for Public Lands, the Crown Land Securement Partner Program, the Kootenay Conservation Program, the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program, Coastal Douglas Fir Conservation Partnership, the Vancouver Island Conservation Land Management Program are some examples.

    Together, we have conserved 719,000 acres of the most ecologically sensitive lands and waters in BC.

    Although each organization has a slightly different focus and capacity to provide input into provincial policy, as a partnership, we believe that new tools and approaches are needed if we are to conserve and restore wildlife and habitat in British Columbia, and that nature would benefit from the implementation of the recommendations below.

    We thank the BC government for the opportunity to provide comments on this proposal. Below are the key points for your consideration, which span all four key areas of your consultation but that are expressed here together for simplicity:

    1. We are delighted to see that an ecosystem-based approach to supporting species is a focus of this consultation. As habitat conservation organizations, we have seen the tremendous and far reaching conservation benefit to populations and biodiversity generated by landscape-level conservation planning and science-based, targeted habitat conservation. This approach should be lauded, not only for its effectiveness, but for the efficiency that it affords in terms of planning and resources, the ability to manage for multiple objectives and multiple species, and for the ability to engage conservation partners and the public in conservation and stewardship activities.
    a. As part of the ecosystem approach we would invite the government to consider enhanced protection for our province’s wetlands – an ecosystem that provides a disproportionately high benefit to plants, terrestrial and marine animal species, and especially to species at risk. We would encourage consideration of adopting a provincial wetland policy as an effective means to ensure such protections are in place and implemented; this is an approach many other Canadian provinces are adopting.
    b. We caution that, while ecosystem-based management should be central to the new approach, there still needs to be provisions and tools in place for single species protection and habitat management when and where required. As with the ecosystem-based approach, we would strongly advocate that single species habitat management be grounded in the best available science.

    2. We ask that the BC Government commit to ensuring that new legislation aligns with and is complementary to the ongoing work of the conservation community. This includes ensuring that:
    a. Government investments in existing habitat securement and management partnerships – including those on private land – continue and expand in order to facilitate the implementation of ecosystem conservation plans and species recovery strategies;
    b. New permitting, monitoring and reporting requirements are designed to allow conservation organizations to continue their ecosystem-based habitat work. This work typically aligns with the overall goal of species and habitat conservation of the Province of BC, but could be inadvertently impeded by new permitting requirements. Unfortunately, poorly planned species at risk policy has impeded conservation and stewardship work in other jurisdictions.
    c. The act enables new tools to provide long-term regulatory certainty to conservation organizations delivering habitat restoration, management and stewardship. For example, long-term (10 years +) management agreements under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act create regulatory clarity and expedite permitting of conservation projects and conservation land management. A 10-year timeframe aligns with other forms of conservation agreements and protections for our conservation partnerships (for example, North American Wetlands Conservation Act – NAWCA) and supports the existing habitat work being done by the conservation community.

    3. Broadly speaking and based on lessons-learned from other jurisdictions, we see a core feature of successful policy to conserve species is an ability to work effectively on both public and private land.
    a. Looking at issues with similar legislation across Canada and federally, we caution that successful species at risk legislation needs to be crafted and implemented in a way that works on private land – particularly given the frequency with which sensitive species and ecosystems coincide with private land designation in this province, and given the issues with implementation on private lands we have observed federally.
    b. We also caution that, to the greatest extent possible, such legislation should work to cast the presence of species at risk in specific areas and on property to be a positive feature that add value to that land and landscape, and not a liability for landowners and land managers. In other words, focus on the positive rather than punitive measures and cast in a way that encourages cooperation and reporting and that discourages the impulse to “shoot, shovel and shut up” – a real challenge and threat to species at risk legislation.
    c. Finally, we ask that government consider robust incentive programs, particularly early in implementation, to increase the uptake on conservation and stewardship actions that support species at risk conservation on private land. Federal programs like the Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) and Species at Risk Partnership on Agricultural Land (SARPAL) have delivered positive results under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, although arguably much more is needed.

    We thank you again for the opportunity to engage.

    Please note: We wish to submit three case studies, which serve as examples of our partnership’s success in conserving habitat for species at risk on private lands. It is our hope that these can be considered as part of the public consultation and would appreciate advice on how best to submit these PDF files.

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