Invoke the Species at Risk Act

The legislation is very clear, if the province does not provide adequate protection for species at risk then the federal government has the authority to do so under Section 34 (3) of the Species at Risk Act. Last week I sent a letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, urging him to invoke the Act to protect Western Screech-owls nesting in the old growth forests of Southern Vancouver Island. Read the full text of my letter at the bottom of this page.

Western Screech-owl photographed by Royann Petrell

MEDIA RELEASE


MP Paul Manly calls on Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to invoke the Species at Risk Act


NANAIMO – Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly is calling on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to invoke the Species at Risk Act. In a letter to Minister Jonathan Wilkinson on May 18th, Manly urged the minister to use his authority under the Act to suspend logging in old growth forests on Southern Vancouver Island where Western Screech-owls are nesting.


Identified under the Act as a threatened species, sightings of Western Screech-owls have been confirmed in areas where RCMP have begun enforcing a court injunction against environmental activists, near the communities of Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew. UBC Associate Professor Emerita Royann Petrell documented the presence of the Western Screech-owls and confirmed with provincial biologists that the owls have not previously been sighted in these areas.


“The Government of Canada has shown a commitment to protecting species at risk,” said Manly. “Less than a month ago Trans Mountain Corp was ordered to halt work that was disrupting the nesting of Anna’s hummingbirds. I’ve asked Minister Wilkinson to take appropriate action to protect these Western Screech-owl habitats.


“We are only beginning to comprehend the diversity and importance of the species that inhabit big-tree coastal old growth forests. In BC only 3% of these endangered ecosystems remain untouched. This is not a situation where logging can continue while we figure out the ecological value of these forests, particularly when we know that old growth logging approvals in BC have nearly doubled over the past year. The BC government talks about protecting endangered old growth forests but their actions do not align with their words.”


On April 30, 2020 the BC provincial government received the “Strategic Review of How British Columbia Manages for Old Forests Within its Ancient Ecosystems: A New Future for Old Forests”. The independent review was commissioned by the BC government and contains 14 recommendations for protection of BC’s endangered old growth forest ecosystems. The governing party promised to implement these 14 recommendations, but environmental and indigenous organizations are reporting that not only has there been nearly no progress on the implementation of the review, but there has been an increase in approvals for logging old growth forest blocks. Research done by the Wilderness Committee shows a 43% increase in approvals for old growth logging in the last year, as compared to the year prior. Mark Worthing, coastal projects lead for the Sierra Club of BC has described the current situation in BC as “a garage sale for the last old growth.”


“Right now, it’s easier to cut down an old growth forest than to protect it. That’s backward,” stated Manly. “The legislation is out of date and out of step. It doesn’t reflect the reality of the climate crisis or the biodiversity crisis. That’s why the Green Party of Canada caucus has been calling on the Government of Canada to expand the Species at Risk Act to include protection of endangered ecosystems.”


Since the first blockades were established to prevent road building into the Fairy Creek watershed, MP Manly has been raising the issue of old growth protection in the House of Commons. In February 2021 he brought forward Motion 71, which calls on the government to work with First Nations and the provinces to halt logging of endangered old growth ecosystems, increase conservation funding, and ban raw log exports in order to maximize the economic benefits of second and third growth harvesting by supporting value-added industries that create jobs. He also sponsored an online parliamentary petition calling for the same actions that garnered 12,920 signatures from across Canada.