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The sixth mass extinction event

There’s a growing silence in the forest, says letter writer
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To the editor,

Biologists tell us that we are entering the sixth mass extinction event since the world began, the first to be caused by a single species, us.

According to a study this month, B.C. is home to the highest amount of biodiversity in Canada and accordingly, the greatest number of species at risk, 1900! The report’s sponsors, the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Committee, are calling for a new law that creates a framework to protect species, habitat and healthy ecosystems.

The first step in working toward protecting species that are endangered or threatened is to map the critical habitat required for their survival and recovery. Then, the federal Species at Risk Act, (SARA) demands a recovery strategy be developed within one year for endangered species and two years for threatened species. On average, this critical mapping is almost a decade behind schedule. It is overdue for 97 per cent of the species studied, some studies by as much as 18 years. Where provinces fail to protect species, the federal government can issue emergency orders under SARA But it has never done that.

Presently, B.C.’s laws do not address all the threats that cause species to decline. The provincial government gave its Environment Ministry the mandate to create a species at risk law in 2017. It has yet to do that. The government accepted the Old Growth Strategic Review’s 2020 recommendation to “declare conservation of ecosystem health and biodiversity in our forests as an overarching priority.” But it has yet to enact required legislation there either. Instead, it has created a new starting line this year by mandating yet another prospective process, the Land, Water and Resource Stewardship to protect and enhance biodiversity. But with these continuing delays, soon the only place one might find caribou in BC will be on the back of a quarter.

B.C. has a piecemeal collection of legislation, voluntary best practices, policies and regulations that do not protect species from extinction. For example the Wildlife Act only protects five species and the Forest and Range Practices Act does not even require logging companies to survey for evidence of species at risk before they log.

One is driven to wonder whether the reason for government’s failure to move with required speed is that critical habitat, once mapped, has then to be set aside or companies have to learn to operate within ecosystems without destroying them. Either approach is difficult and costly. But not to do it is more so.

Robert Hart,

Terrace, B.C.


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