Study finds that 42 percent of all BC species that cross borders at risk
Environmental groups from Canada and the US released a new scientific study today highlighting the inadequate patchwork of laws and policies putting more than 1,900 species at risk of extinction or extirpation in British Columbia. The report reveals that these species need considerably more protection if they are to survive in BC, especially the 96 per cent that are transboundary species that exist in BC and neighbouring jurisdictions. While several of these jurisdictions have strong species protection laws, a species that crosses the border into BC often faces serious perils.
“If a grizzly bear ambles from Alberta or Montana across the border into BC, it goes from being protected by law, to staring down the barrel of a gun,” said Michelle Connolly, David Suzuki Foundation Scientist and report co-author. “This clearly demonstrates the urgent need for BC to pass its own endangered species law — animals shouldn’t need passports to get protection.”
Released today by the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, and Conservation Northwest, the report details how BC has become one of the last refuges for species like the grizzly bear, lynx, and wolverine. Despite being home to a vast array of wildlife, very few species at risk in BC are protected under law.
“Current laws in BC list only nine per cent of at-risk species in BC, and even for them, protections are woefully inadequate,” said Keith Ferguson, report co-author and staff lawyer with Ecojustice. “Most provinces have stand-alone legislation to protect species at risk, but BC remains a laggard with no such law.”
The report highlights the need for new, strong legislation in BC to protect species and ecosystems at risk. It also recommends BC improve coordination of conservation efforts with its neighbours, including planning for anticipated movements of species ranges in response to climate change, which will require connected corridors across political borders.
“Wildlife does not recognize political boundaries,” said Joe Scott, International Conservation Director at Conservation Northwest. “Species like lynx are seriously endangered in the shared habitats of the US and BC, but are only protected south of the border. Unfortunately protections for such vulnerable wildlife are more like legal dead ends than two-way streets.”
The report, On the Edge: British Columbia’s Unprotected Transboundary Species, is available online.
For more information, please contact:
Joe Scott, Conservation Northwest (360) 671-9950 ext 11
Michelle Connolly, David Suzuki Foundation (604) 732-4228 ext 1265
Keith Ferguson, Ecojustice (604) 685-5618 ext 287
Main findings of On the Edge: British Columbia’s Unprotected Transboundary Species
•BC is the most biodiverse province in Canada with over 4,000 known plant and animal species, the vast majority of which are transboundary (meaning they exist both inside and outside BC).
•Of BC’s 4,373 recognized species, 96 percent share range with at least one of our neighbouring jurisdictions: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alberta, Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories.
•Almost half of these transboundary species are in trouble: 42 percent of the transboundary species in BC are at risk of disappearing from BC.
•An especially high number of species are in trouble in southern ecosystems where many BC residents live, and most such species are transboundary: 71 percent of BC residents live in four regional districts whose biodiversity is predominantly transboundary and greatly at risk, Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Capital and Central Okanagan.
•There is little legislation in BC to protect the vast majority of species at risk in B.C., including the 1,801 transboundary species at risk:
•Only 9 percent of transboundary species at risk have legal protection under the federal Species at Risk Act or BC Forests and Range Practices Act or BC Wildlife Act.
•As a result, the habitat of 1,635 transboundary BC species such as the snowy owl, Badlands tiger beetle and Townsend’s big-eared bat is unprotected by law even though these species have been assessed as being at risk of extinction.
•Without transboundary species, significant parts of BC’s biodiversity would be lost, jeopardizing the healthy functioning of many ecosystems and the provision of critical ecosystem services that sustain the wellbeing of British Columbians.
For more information, please download a copy of the report, On the Edge: British Columbia’s Unprotected Transboundary Species.