World Wetland Day Feb. 2, 2021

All over the planet, wetlands are being degraded and destroyed faster than the Amazon rainforest.
Here in Canada, Ducks Unlimited estimates that our country has lost as much as 70% of it’s wetlands. In parts of the prairies, that percentage is as high as 90%. Like the prairies, BC’s coastal wetlands have also been hit hard by human development. Estimates of the loss in this region range  between 60 – 70%.
Wetlands are not waste lands. They provide countless ecological services for free, such as water purification, flood protection, and wildlife habitat. These functions could save governments and taxpayers millions of dollars in building new or repairing existing infrastructure such as water treatment plants or dike systems.
There are also strong moral, ethical and even spiritual reasons to protect and restore wetlands.
The following short documentary, which I produced five years ago, underscored the urgent need for farmers and the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta to get much more serious about engaging in this vitally important work.
It was broadcast by Shaw Community Stations in those three provinces on this day.
It’s message is just as relevant today as it was five years ago.
I hope you enjoy it.

Parks and Climate – A Conversation with Bob Sandford, Chair in Water and Climate Security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health.

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park

As noted in a previous blog, I’m assisting with efforts to move Premier Horgan and his majority government to restore funding and staffing for BC Parks. He has said that dealing with climate change is a top priority for his government. Taking him at his word, a number of organizations are making the case that parks and protected areas should properly be seen and treated as a vitally important components of any climate change strategy.

I believe this approach has huge potential to be successful. And so, recently I set up a Zoom conversation with my friend, colleague and intellectual foil, Bob Sandford

Bob and I go back quite a ways, at least 20 years. We met while I was gathering research for my book about the loss of ecological integrity in our country’s national parks. Both Bob and I started our professional careers as park naturalists with what was then the National Parks Branch but now known as Parks Canada. One of things we share in common is our passion for parks and protected areas. 

Bob also happens to be the Chair in Water and Climate Security at the United NatIons University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. He’s a highly respected and much sought after expert on the interplay between climate change and water.

What follows are a series of sound bites I’ve lifted from our conversation which I hope you’ll find interesting and informative.

BC’s Parks and Protected Areas as Part of a Solution to Climate Change

Downstream from Kinuseo Falls, Monkman Provincial Park
Downstream from Kinuseo Falls, Monkman Provincial Park

Climate change has emerged as the world’s most critical threat. While it is a global issue, its impacts are felt most acutely at the local and regional level. They are very real and very personal. Just ask any British Columbia who has experienced losing their home to wildfires or floods driven by the changing climate.

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention in the USA has identified eight ways that human health is affected by climate change including increased respiratory illness, mental health issues, and cardiovascular failure.

But it’s not just human health that is threatened. So is that of the planet. Entire ecosystems that support life are collapsing as the Earth’s temperature continues to rise. In 2016, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources released a report entitled: “Climate Change Vulnerability of BC’s Fish and Wildlife: First Approximation”. In it, the authors list a host of ways in which climate change is likely to impact BC’s biodiversity, if it isn’t already, including the unavailability of suitable habitat to support migration, increase abundance of invasive species, and development of new disease patterns.

Stone Mountain Sheep
Stone Mountain Sheep

There’s no doubt that Earth is running a life-threatening fever and a solution to climate change needs to be found immediately and urgently. Restoring the planet’s health is an inarguable imperative. Parks and protected areas make an invaluable contribution to achieving this goal.

Wolf hunting along roadside
Wolf hunting along roadside

 British Columbians can be rightly proud of the province’s parks and protected areas system; it is the envy of the world. But the creation of new parks has not kept up with the challenges of climate change and species loss. Nor is the agency – BC Parks – adequately funded to carry out its responsibilities properly. As a result, BC’s ability to mitigate and adopt to climate change is weakened.

The Government of BC must move quickly to expand the parks and protected areas system and to restore adequate funding so the system can be properly managed to protect, maintain and restore ecological integrity/planetary health.

On the Golden Spruce Trail Haida Gwaii
On the Golden Spruce Trail Haida Gwaii