From April 10 to 24th, 2018 staff from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (the Ministry) met with invited stakeholder groups regarding species-at-risk legislation for British Columbia (B.C).  Meetings occurred in small groups of stakeholders with similar interests.

Please find a summary report prepared by Fraser Basin Council. This report reflects the conversations heard at the stakeholder face to face sessions April 10-12, 2018 in Vancouver, BC.

Prior to meeting, participants were provided with Protecting Species at Risk: A Primer to Support a Conversation with British Columbians. The primer provides background on B.C.’s current approach to species at risk protection and outlines the Province’s approach to engaging on new species-at-risk legislation.

Stakeholder groups included environmental non-government organizations, land trusts, tourism and recreation organizations, and industry sector groups.

The purpose of these conversations was for the Ministry to gain a better understanding of stakeholder perspectives with respect to new species-at-risk legislation for B.C.  Each session was approximately 2 hours in length. Conversation was focused around three questions:

  1. How do you currently consider species at risk in your work?
  2. What are your hopes for species-at-risk legislation? What are your concerns regarding species-at-risk legislation?
  3. What solutions would you like to explore at a multi-stakeholder workshop in June?

Information gathered through these conversations will inform the next stage of engagement – a multi-stakeholder workshop that will occur in June.  At this workshop, participants and Ministry staff will explore potential policy solutions to the ideas and issues heard during the first phase of engagement.

This document provides a summary of what we heard from participants in these meetings, and are organized by the question that was asked.

Question 1: How do you currently consider species at risk in your work?

We heard about many ways in which people consider species at risk in their current activities and how they participate in efforts to protect species at risk. Some of the ways we heard people are considering species at risk include:

  • Adhering to regulatory processes established under the Forest and Ranges Practices Act and Oil and Gas Activities Act.
  • Meeting conditions established in permits under existing statutes including the Parks Act, Environmental Assessment Act, and Wildlife Act.
  • Following guidelines established in Memorandums of Understanding and partnership agreements with government for operating in and around species at risk and high value habitat.
  • Aligning with standards of professional practice established by professional associations.
  • Voluntarily adopting best management practices.
  • Acquiring land for securement to protect and restore habitat for species at risk.
  • Participating in community-based conservation programs (for example: building of bird boxes or exclusion fencing).
  • Creating collaborative partnerships with other organizations to carry out conservation actions for species at risk (for example: land securement, habitat restoration, or public education).

 

Question 2: What are your hopes for species-at-risk legislation? What are your concerns regarding species-at-risk legislation?

Most participants expressed willingness to “do the right thing” in relation to species at risk; however, many also expressed the need for clear guidance from government on what this could be. They also expressed a strong desire to be part of identifying the solution to protect species at risk.

Participants expressed hope for:

  • A simple, clear piece of legislation that is easy to implement and for people to understand.
  • A transparent decision making process related to the protection of species and habitat.
  • Consistent rules related to species at risk, such as a similar set of expectations of people operating in and around species at risk and their habitat.
  • Clear process for determining which species and habitats must be considered and expectations about how they are considered in land use decisions.
  • A clear process for removing a species at risk from the list (i.e. ‘de-listing’).
  • Species-at-risk legislation that is integrated into a broader land use planning process.
  • Coordinated regional planning for species at risk protection, rather than a model where habitat is protected on a species-by-species approach.
  • A shift from the reactive protection of species at risk to a proactive approach to management where we can avoid a species from becoming at-risk.
  • Investment in actions that are the most likely to result in species recovery (greatest return on investment).
  • Legislation that would allow individuals to take government to court if government does not meet its obligation for protecting species.
  • Continued access to plants and animals of social and cultural importance to Indigenous peoples.
  • A model that supports land owners and tenure holders to protect species at risk rather than focusing solely on a regulatory model.

Respecting habitat protection, participants expressed hope for legislation that:

  • Provides mandatory, interim habitat protection while government establishes clearer and more refined long term protection for species and their habitat.
  • Considers the impacts on businesses and livelihoods when protecting habitat.
  • Protects habitat by setting ‘objectives’ within an area rather than prescriptive habitat designations.
  • Improves certainty for land owners and tenure holders regarding when and how government is going to set aside habitat for species at risk.
  • Improves protection for species that improves the status of a species.
  • Takes an ecosystem, multi-species, or habitat-based approach that addresses more than one species at a time.

Participants expressed hope for a system or program that:

  • Recognizes a “stewardship first” approach to conservation and creates opportunities for collaboration rather than focusing only on regulatory tools.
  • Provides support and improves the profile for projects and programs that support the protection of species at risk, including creation of incentives and support for conservation projects.
  • Acknowledges the contributions to conservation being made by businesses or individuals.
  • Provides funding for species at risk, including providing support for other organizations to leverage investments.
  • Provides guidance about priorities for action for species at risk, to enable partner organizations to direct their actions to the most effective place.
  • Provides more support for local and regional governments in the protection and recovery of species at risk.

Participants also expressed the following respecting the role of science in a system for species at risk:

  • The assessment of the status of species should be based on science information.
  • The legal recognition (listing) of species should be based solely on science.
  • Recovery actions should be based solely on science.
  • The legal recognition (listing) of species should consider social and economic factors.

Concerns regarding species-at-risk legislation formed around several themes, including concerns about:

  • The potential impact on the economic viability of businesses.
  • The potential for misalignment of B.C.’s species-at-risk legislation with the federal Species at Risk Act.
  • Limiting activities in broad geographic areas for the protection of habitat without due consideration of the impact of doing so – including the potential to impact people’s businesses and livelihoods.
  • The Province’s ability to continue managing species at risk on a species-by-species basis – often pointing to the need to look at a more strategic approach, including acting sooner before species are “on the brink”.
  • The manner in which decisions are made including the criteria for legally recognizing (listing) species and the criteria or process for determining the protection of these species and habitat.

Other concerns included that new legislation had the potential to result in:

  • Excessive administrative burden, including the possibility of long delays for permits to authorize activities on the land.
  • Disincentives to continue good work already being carried out to conserve species at risk (for example, if legislation required permits to carry out conservation or restoration activities).
  • Cumulative negative impacts to species at risk and their habitat that stem from approvals of multiple projects over time.
  • Cumulative negative impacts to business that stem from more habitat protections over time.
  • Limited access to backcountry areas, including the closure of roads, which could stem from the protection of habitat.
  • Continued investment in species and habitat protection where recovering the species is no longer a viable option.
  • Lack of provincial action to protect habitat for some species already considered at-risk.
  • Species at risk will be listed and protected due to a lack of science information, rather than being truly at risk.

 

Question 3: What solutions would you like to explore at the multi-stakeholder workshop in June?

Participants suggested a wide range of ideas for topics to explore at the next stage of engagement – a multi-stakeholder workshop to be held in June. Below are some themes we heard:

  • Discuss the purpose and objectives of the Act. This can then be used to guide day-to-day decisions in policy development.
  • Discuss options for the manner in which species are assessed and listed under an Act, and de-listed if the status of a species improves.
  • Discuss criteria for decisions that will be driven by science and those that should consider social or economic considerations.
  • Discuss issues related to information and data collection: How can we enable the collection of more data for species at risk while ensuring this information is being used in appropriate ways? How can we create tools to better enable the consideration of species at risk?
  • Examine ways to protect habitat for species at risk while maintaining access to an area for economic activities that adequately protect species at risk.
  • Explore a regional decision making framework, including how to consider species at risk at the regional level to avoid cumulative impacts of projects on a species, and on the cumulative impacts on business from additional species protections.
  • Explore ecosystem, multi-species or habitat approaches to species-at-risk management.
  • Explore management options beyond a prescriptive approach to habitat protection, to one that looks at more flexible options perhaps based on landscape objectives, or through protecting attributes and features.
  • Examine stewardship incentives, including incentives for voluntary conservation and safe harbour agreements.