Let’s focus on creating resilient communities.

In Question Period, I asked the ministers of FLNRORD and Environment what they were doing to protect the whitebark pine. Forty-two percent of the global population of this species lives in B.C., but since the species was listed as endangered, more than 19,000 cubic metres of the trees have been logged.

Transcript

LOGGING PRACTICES AND PROTECTION OF WHITEBARK PINE

S. Furstenau: The whitebark pine tree was listed as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act in 2012. In 2017, the federal government released a proposed recovery strategy for the whitebark pine in Canada. Forty-two percent of the global population of this species lives in B.C., but since the species was listed as endangered, more than 19,000 cubic metres of the trees have been logged.

In 2013, Lake Louise Ski Resort, in Alberta, logged a patch of trees that included just a few dozen whitebark pine. The company was fined $2.1 million for what the judge called reckless behavior. But in B.C., no fines, no restrictions, no guidelines for companies to avoid logging and endangered species, and 19,000 cubic metres logged.

My question is to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. How in 2019 is his government allowing the continued logging of the whitebark pine despite its endangered status?

Hon. D. Donaldson: I appreciate the question from the member. I believe she has two aspects to that question: one around public lands and one around private lands.

First of all, on public lands, our government is committed to conserving B.C.’s diverse biology, and that includes the whitebark pine. It’s a species that grows in upper subalpine elevations. It grows above the tree line. It has limited commercial value, and provincial practices specify the species is not to be logged.

We are working with the federal government for the implementation of a recovery plan, including a rust-resistance screening program, because the major threat to whitebark pine is blister rust. So we’re planting seedlings that are resistant to that. We’re working with the Conservation Data Centre on pine-mapping technology as well.

However, her question also brought up concerns, I believe, around logging on private managed forest lands. That act has not been reviewed since it was first established in 2003. We heard concerns about activities on private managed forest lands and that program, and so we initiated a review. That review was launched. It’s now complete. We had 27 in-person sessions, received over 1,200 submissions, and we’ll be releasing a what-we-heard report…. It was released earlier this month.

We’ll be engaging with local governments and First Nations to get more feedback on that report and implementing our final report and recommendations from that in the new year. That has to do, again, with the whitebark pine.

Mr. Speaker: House Leader, Third Party, on a supplemental.

S. Furstenau: Thank you to the minister for a thorough answer to things I didn’t quite ask. I did note the report. I did review it recently, and one of the things that stood out was the predominance amongst stakeholders, citizens, interest groups, First Nations, local governments about the lack of conservation and protection of ecosystems on private managed forest lands.

British Columbia invests less in the protection of wildlife per person or per hectare than any other state or province in the Pacific Northwest. The discrepancy is startling, with Washington state, for example, spending 23 times more per square kilometre to protect wildlife.

Earlier this year the B.C. Wildlife Federation released a report noting the following. “While the human population, resource extraction and threats to habitat and wildlife have increased significantly, the funding and capacity to support natural resource management have declined. This is the opposite of other jurisdictions and the opposite of what British Columbians expect.”

I note the very powerful statement given by the member for Fraser-Nicola about the decline of steelhead as an example of what we are seeing right now in respect to endangered species around this province.

My question is to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Without provincial legislation dedicated to protecting species at risk, how does he intend to mitigate the loss of wildlife in our province, particularly at a time when climate change has already begun to alter entire ecosystems?

Hon. G. Heyman: Thank you to the member for the question. One of the reasons that species-at-risk legislation is included in my mandate letter and the reason that I have assured the member in the past and the public that we are working on it and that we intend to bring it in, in this mandate is what we inherited after 16 years of failed promises from the former government. The failure by the former government to take any meaningful action has meant that it’s become harder to protect B.C.’s ecosystems and species, and we’ve created instability for Indigenous communities and industry.

We have for the last two years been consulting broadly with communities, with Indigenous nations — over 120 Indigenous nations and 22 regional sessions — to work together with communities, industries, stakeholders, Indigenous people and environmental scientists to find a path forward to protect B.C.’s species at risk in a way that works for everyone. We take that seriously. We’re continuing to work on that. But we have and will continue to take action in the meantime as we try to get the legislation right.

We did, for instance, sign an agreement with Canada and the Syilx Okanagan Nation to establish a national park in the South Okanagan–Similkameen. This is a region that is home to 11 percent of Canada’s species at risk. I look forward to working with the federal government, with the nations and with British Columbians to bring these kinds of protections to this irreplaceable region and others throughout British Columbia.

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