Environmental Issues in British Columbia

This year has seen a flurry of changes to legislation in BC, such that it is difficult not to conclude that the BC government is clearing the way for major industrial development. For a volunteer-run organization like BC Nature, it has been hard to keep up with this gadarene rush.

Humpback Whales no longer protected by the Species at Risk Act –

Our Spring 2014 report for BCnature Magazine reported on the rebuke issued by a Federal Court Judge to the federal environment and fisheries ministers for their failure to enforce Canada’s Species at Risk Act regarding the Pacific Humpback Whale and three other species. On April 22, the federal government dealt with the Humpback Whale by re-classifying it as a “Species at Risk”, which means that it is no longer required to protect the Humpback’s critical habitat on the BC Coast. While Humpbacks in BC waters have increased significantly since whaling was banned, their population is still about half its pre-whaling size, and many experts consider it premature to remove their “threatened” status. If the Enbridge Pipeline is approved, the Douglas Channel is the route oil tankers will take to transport the bitumen from Kitimat to the open ocean for export to Asia. In the confines of the Douglas Channel, Humpbacks will be at risk from being struck by tankers when they surface to breathe, as well as from oil spills.

Protection of BC Parks incrementally eroded – BC Bill 4

BC’s Provincial Parks may also conflict with government plans for pipelines to transport bitumen to the BC coast. Bill 4, the Park Amendment Act, which passed hurriedly on March 25 without any public discussion, opens up BC provincial parks to research on a number of industrial uses, including pipelines, roads and transmission lines. Opposition to Bill 4 is immense, and on May 14 a petition with 166, 000 signatures was delivered to the government in Victoria. BC Nature also strongly opposes Bill 4, and wrote to the BC Minister of Environment on February 20, urging rescindment of the Bill.

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