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British Columbia ends the grizzly bear hunt

Today the BC Government announced a moratorium on the hunting of Grizzly bears in British Columbia. As you can see from our media release reproduced below, we are delighted with the BC NDP announcement.

Media Release

B.C. Green caucus responds to the end of the grizzly bear hunt
For immediate release
December 18th, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – “After years of work on this file, my colleagues and I are absolutely overjoyed this decision has finally been made. The results of the government’s consultation were clear and government has listened – we couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands and B.C. Green Party spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

“A focus on protecting grizzlies has been a constant throughout my time at the legislature, and I am proud to have been able to help advance this issue,” said Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Leader of the B.C. Green Party.

“Andrew has been a strong advocate for the long term wellbeing of grizzlies since his election in 2013,” said MLA Olsen. “He tabled the Wildlife Amendment Act multiple times and stood as a lone voice in the legislature against the B.C. Liberals who actively supported grizzly trophy hunting and the B.C. NDP who would not take a position. This legislation was intended to give the BC Liberal government a feasible path forward to protecting Grizzly Bears.

“Now we have a very different political landscape in B.C. and our office shifted its efforts accordingly,” said MLA Olsen, who became lead on this file after the May election. “The minority government and a governing agreement signed by the B.C. NDP and B.C. Greens have allowed us to take a stronger position and we commend the government’s bold announcement today.

“Ending the grizzly hunt is a momentous accomplishment, but there is still work to be done to protect this species. If we fail to also consider habitat and food supply – especially with climate change further threatening essential salmon and huckleberry stocks – conflicts with humans, roadkill rates, or poaching incidents, we will fail to protect grizzlies in the long term.

“We hope that this announcement will be followed with a comprehensive ecosystem based approach to wildlife management because we cannot continue to perpetuate the slow, methodical extirpation of native species in BC. We will celebrate progress along the way and work to ensure species like grizzly bears and wild pacific salmon have the resilient ecosystems they need to thrive into the future.

“This breakthrough would not have happened without the efforts of many – thank you and congratulations to everyone involved.”


Media contact
Sarah Miller, Acting Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | sarah.miller@leg.bc.ca

Adam Olsen responds to Auditor General’s report on grizzly bear management

In response to the release of of the Auditor General’s report on grizzly bear management today, my colleague, Adam Olsen, the BC Green critic for wildlife policy released the following:

Media Release

Adam Olsen responds to Auditor General’s report on grizzly bear management, calls for moratorium by bringing hunting tags to zero
For Immediate Release
October 24, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Adam Olsen, the B.C. Green caucus spokesperson for Forestry, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO), responded to the Auditor General’s report, An Independent Audit of Grizzly Bear Management, which was released earlier today.

“I am very concerned that the auditor general has found that the Ministries’ have failed to properly manage B.C.’s grizzly population,” Olsen said.

“These findings demonstrate the urgent need to develop a comprehensive approach to ensuring the health of grizzlies. We need to improve the coordination between the two ministries managing this file and prioritize transparency. Although the trophy hunt has received much high-profile attention, B.C.’s grizzlies face many other threats including habitat and food source loss due to human activity and, increasingly, the encroaching effects of climate change.

“Today, as an initial step, I am calling for a moratorium on grizzly bear by bringing hunting tags to down to zero while we take the time to review our wildlife management practices and plan for a landscape altered by climate change.

“As legislators, our job is to look for feasible solutions to the issues that matter to British Columbians. Under the previous Liberal government, which actively supported the grizzly bear trophy hunt, my colleague Andrew Weaver worked hard to advance legislation that would ban the trophy hunt while protecting rights for local sustenance hunters and First Nations traditional practices. Now, with a party in government that has opposed the grizzly bear trophy hunt supported by the B.C. Greens, we have an opportunity to move the dial even farther on measures that will protect our province’s grizzly bears.”


Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

Reinvesting in British Columbia’s Forest Sector

Despite today’s announcement that $150 million will be invested in reforestation, a wave of unemployment is sweeping across rural B.C. because of government policies that have devastated the province’s once-great forest resource.

Premier Christy Clark now says the appropriate response is to put forest industry people to work building roads and bridges. B.C. really needs a bigger vision than that – especially since the provincial government is complicit in the sector’s mismanagement in the first place.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, a pine beetle infestation erupted. The pandemic was exacerbated by successive B.C. NDP and Liberal governments who pursued policies that created largely monoculture forests.  Pine trees grow fast and the government encouraged their use as the “preferred” species for replanting huge swaths of land that had been clear-cut. At the same time, the government’s shortsighted forest fire suppression policies snuffed out fires that would have naturally created a more diversified landscape. (Forest fires play a vital ecological role and, where possible, should be monitored closely but left to safely burn.)

The result: huge plantations of pine trees flourished. As climate change reduced the severity of B.C. winters, they became perfect breeding grounds for pine beetles and the largest beetle attack ever seen in North America was unleashed destroying millions of trees over a massive area. As the epidemic spread, and the health of B.C.’s forests deteriorated, the government was forced to dramatically increasing the allowable cut.

In recent years, the decline of the province’s forests has been masked by the increased cutting of dead trees in so-called salvage logging – but there is no hiding the fact that nearly 60% of the merchantable pine has been destroyed by the beetle invasion. Today, even the dead trees are running out and across rural B.C. forest industry jobs have entered a period of rapid, devastating decline.

Recent labor force statistics show that while the number of jobs in Metro Vancouver are up, there has been a drop in rural B.C. The unemployment rate in Mainland/Southwest B.C. is at 5%, but it is 8.2% in Thompson-Okanagan and 10.5% in North Coast/Nechako. In December, Tolko Industries shut down its Nicola Valley sawmill, taking 203 high-paying jobs out of a small community that will struggle without them.

And that’s just the start of it.

Because of the declining timber supply, the province’s chief forester has been forced to reduce the allowable annual cut (AAC). In Prince George, the AAC is being reduced by 50%. In Quesnel the AAC is dropping to 1.6 million cubic metres from 4 million cubic metres. Last March, in the Merritt Timber Supply Area, the AAC was cut to 1.5 million from 2.4 million cubic metres.

If you reduce the number of trees being cut, there will be a corresponding drop in the number of loggers, truck drivers and mill workers who have jobs. The Truck Loggers Association recently heard at its annual convention that five or six pulp and paper mills will close in the next two to six years. Thousands of jobs will be lost.

Over the past 25 years, NDP and Liberal governments’ have tried to position themselves as defenders of the forest industry, by setting the AAC at unsustainable levels, instead of concentrating on value added and diversification. The consequences of this are now coming home to roost. Premier Clark’s plan to increase spending on infrastructure projects to address the economic divide between rural and urban B.C. may deliver much needed infrastructure but will not create a long term solution.

What rural B.C. really needs are healthy forests and a vibrant small/medium family business culture that can provide sustainable logging, support local economies and provide environmental diversity over the long term. That’s how communities grow and prosper.

We need to rethink our forest management in the context of the realities of the 21st century – global warming; technological change; international competition; not to mention the immediate issues of growing protectionism, and the soft wood lumber dispute.  Our tenure structures date back to the 19th century, and our mills have been starved of investment over recent years.  The investment that has taken place, has usually replaced people with machines.

Rather than manage our forests, the BC Liberals have toyed with privatizing them.  It is worth remembering that in 2001, Mike De Jong, then Minister of Forests, told a meeting of silviculturalists that BC’s Crown forests would be “unrecognizable” when he and the Liberals were finished with them.

Our forests are our collective asset, and we need to ensure that first and foremost, British Columbians are fully benefiting from them, not just corporations and vested interests.

We need to start a new conversation about our forests. We need to ask:

  • How do we maximize the benefits of our forest industry?
  • How do we get the greatest value from our fibre?
  • How do we ensure that our rural and remote communities are included in the benefits?
  • What is the most effective long term management structure?
  • How do we integrate indigenous people and communities in decision making?
  • How are we going to manage sustainability, long term productivity, mitigating climate change and enhancing secondary manufacturing?

A redesign of our forest management is long overdue and would be priority of a BC Green Government. We need to truly end the war in the woods, and ensure that our forests work for all of us.


Protecting Vancouver Island’s Old Growth Forest

Question period in the legislature today was surreal. I left the chamber wondering whether I should quit politics altogether. I was absolutely appalled by the behaviour of official opposition and government members. It was shocking — truly shocking.

Personal attacks, vitriol, abuse, obnoxious heckling and utter disrespect was on display for all to see. This place needs to change. It needs a complete shake up.

That won’t happen, it seems, unless the general public rises up to vote out those politicians on both sides of the house who are more interested in hurling abuse than dealing with issues facing British Columbians. There was no excuse for the behaviour today. No excuse at all.

I was up on question period today and had planned to ask the relevant Minister two questions. The Minister was not at Question Period so I had to be nimble and ask a completely different question (see next post).

The question I had planned to ask is reproduced below. It was meant to coincide with an announcement on the need for widespread protection of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island.

We have lost over 90% of our biggest and most productive low-elevation old-growth forests. The government is continuing to allow the harvesting of our old-growth forests on Vancouver Island based on a plan created in the 1990s. It’s time to create a plan for this century.

The reality is, the government will say they are ‘protecting’ old-growth forests when in reality they have largely protected the steep, high mountain slopes or wet bogs. Yes it’s technically old-growth, but it’s the valley bottom, low-elevation, highly productive old-growth forests with the massive thousand-year-old trees that are at greatest risk.

In 2013 the UVic Environmental Law Centre proposed an “Old Growth Protection Act”. Part of this science-based plan was to immediately end old-growth logging in critically endangered forests and to quickly phase out old-growth logging where there is a high risk to biological diversity and ecosystem integrity. I believe the idea has merit.

Aside from ensuring habitat and biodiversity integrity, protecting our old-growth forests in British Columbia should be a part of our province’s climate plan. On Vancouver Island, apart from reducing our emissions, one of the most significant things we can do to for the climate is to leave our old-growth forests intact. It is also the responsible thing to do for our eco-tourism industry and follows the wishes of local communities across this island.

In April the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities passed R11 – a resolution calling for increased protection of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island.

The Walbran Valley is the one of the most concerning productive old-growth forests but there are a number of old-growth areas that are or could be logged any day including: Nootka Island, East Creek, Edinburgh Grove, Tsitika Valley, Nahmint Valley, Southwest Nimpkish, Echo Valley, Maclaughlin Ridge, Horne Mountain, and the Cameron Valley Fire Break. In my view there is no compelling reason to justify the logging the last of our productive old-growth forests.

Background Facts

  • On Vancouver Island 90% of the biggest and most productive low-elevation old-growth forest has been removed
  • Only 13% of the land base on Vancouver Island is protected from logging, only 8% of the island’s productive forest ecosystems are protected, and just 3% of the valley-bottom rainforests are protected.
  • A recent report from the Wilderness Committee calls for a conservation plan for Vancouver Island’s rainforest where ½ of Vancouver Island’s rainforest is set aside
  • Old-Growth forests are substantially better carbon sinks than young forests. According to a new study in the journal Nature, a tree’s growth accelerates with age, enabling them to take up more carbon than younger trees.
  • In 2013 the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre proposed an “Old Growth Protection Act” to ensure better protection for BC’s ancient forest heritage.
  • They called for a science-based plan that would have immediately ended old-growth logging in critically endangered forests and phased out old-growth logging where there is a “high risk to biological diversity and ecosystem integrity”.
  • Calvin Sandborn, legal director of the Uvic Environmental Law Centre, stated at the time that “there is a need for new legislation and planning that is based on science, governed by timelines, and plugs existing loopholes or inconsistencies.”
  • While there is an old-growth management strategy currently in place, it is heavily skewed towards protecting areas of low productivity (e.g. mountain tops and steep slopes)
  • The Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities 2016 R11 resolution stated the following:

“be it further resolved that AVICC send a letter to the provincial government—Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations—as well as relevant government organizations requesting that the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan be amended to protect all of Vancouver Island’s remaining old growth forest on provincial Crown land.”


While I’m pleased with government’s announcement today that they’re going to protect 186,198 hectares of already-protected old growth forest on the mainland, on Vancouver Island, our old growth forests are in dire need of protection. The Wilderness Committee and Sierra Club have called what’s happening here an ecological emergency.

Putting this in context, over 90% of the grandest and most productive low-elevation old-growth forests on Vancouver Island have already been logged. Only about 3% of the original high productivity, valley bottom old-growth forests are protected in parks and Old Growth Management Areas on BC’s Southern Coast. Several species are also on the brink of disappearing and biodiversity is being affected.

The Walbran Valley is one of a rapidly dwindling number of contiguous prime ancient forests left on Southern Vancouver Island large enough to provide habitat for healthy populations of a number of endangered species. Yet a 486-hectare core area of the valley is unprotected — a portion of it is slated for logging right now.

Is the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations open to implementing an alternative science-based forest management system for Vancouver Island’s remaining intact old-growth forest?

Supplemental Question

Old growth forests are not only fundamental to the ecological integrity of Vancouver Island, they are also a major eco-tourism draw and many island communities have recognized this.

For example, Chambers of commerce and city councils from Tofino to Victoria have passed motions opposing the continued old-growth logging in the Walbran Valley.

Two weeks ago the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities endorsed a motion calling on the government to amend the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan to protect all of Vancouver Island’s remaining old growth forest found on provincial Crown Land. This land use plan was created in the 1990s and logging of old-growth forest has continued for the last two decades.

Will the government recognize that a plan formed in the 1990s is no longer adequate for today, listen to wishes of local communities and amend the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan to protect all remaining old-growth forests on crown land?

Endangered Wildlife — The Next Migration

Today I had the distinct honour of giving the keynote address at the opening of the Endangered Wildlife — The Next Migration art exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre.

I took the opportunity to make two announcements. The first is that the we need to form a Natural Resource Board here in British Columbia — one that mirrors the Forest Practices Board and ensures that the cumulative effects of our resource extraction do not put species and ecosystems at further risk.

The second is that I am calling for an end to all old growth logging on crown land here on Vancouver Island.

This call comes in light of the motion put forward by the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities at their AGM on April 10th, 2016, which resolved that the old-growth forests on provincial Crown Land on Vancouver Island be protected from logging.

Below is the text of my speech.

Text of Speech

Good evening. First I would like to thank the Robert Bateman Centre and the organizers of this event from the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Education for inviting me tonight. I am honoured to speak to you and to have the chance to enjoy all of the magnificent artwork on display here. It is also a privilege to meet the talented artists that created these beautiful pieces.

Everyone here tonight would agree that we are extremely lucky to live in such a beautiful place. I truly believe we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

We are inspired by our natural environment and it is wonderful to be able to use that inspiration in order to highlight the environmental risks we face.

Having read through many of the artist’s biographies on the event’s site, it’s clear that each of these individuals has a profound connection with, and passion for, nature and wildlife. So it makes perfect sense that this passion would inspire their work. And as is true with any discipline, when passion and work can coexist and inspire one another, the potential for success is boundless.

In fact, the ability for two things to coexist in a harmonious and beneficial manner is exactly what we are here to celebrate and promote this evening.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), humans have discovered an estimated 1,562,663 different lifeforms on this planet. Of these 1.5 million species – that include both animals and plants – 77,340 have been assessed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

According to the Red List, 22,784 of these assessed species are currently threatened with extinction. The loss and degradation of natural habitat has been identified as the main threat to 85% of all species identified on the list.

While these numbers portray the problem on a global level, our local circumstances are not much better. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, over 60% of British Columbia’s ecological areas, such as grasslands, and over 40% of our species are at-risk. That’s 1900 at-risk species not to mention the hundreds of ecosystems.

Under the federal Species at Risk act, a total of 231 species are listed as at-risk in this province, yet the BC government explicitly provides protection for only 4 of them (the Sea Otter, White Pelican, Burrowing Owl and Vancouver Island Marmot).

The reason for this discrepancy in protected species is largely due to the fact that there is currently no stand-alone provincial act to protect endangered species here in BC.

Despite having the greatest biodiversity in the country and numerous calls on government to do more to protect our wildlife, BC remains one of only two provinces in Canada – the other being Alberta – that has no Endangered Wildlife Act.

Instead, we’ve been hiding behind the outdated B.C. Wildlife Act, which was neither designed for this purpose nor provides the protection that these species need.

To add to the already fragile situation, we continue to put economic interests ahead of environmental ones, without realising that one cannot flourish without the other.

Without more government regulated oversight, the cumulative effects of climate change and human development will continue to have adverse and unprecedented impacts on all aspects of our natural environment.

There are a number of steps we can and should be taking to diminish the negative impacts we are having on our natural environment. This is especially true of government.

By addressing issues relating to climate change, resource extraction, old growth logging and preservation at a provincial level, we can take major strides towards ensuring that the biodiversity of our province remains healthy.

Climate change is perhaps one of the most serious threats to our natural environment as a whole. Unfortunately, our provincial government is failing to demonstrate any leadership in addressing this issue.

Due to the choices that our government has made since 2012, there is no longer a pathway to meet our legislated 2020 GHG reduction targets. Yet in response to this realization, the BC Liberal government has simply highlighted the need for a new 2030 target, with little offered about how we can get there. Setting targets is meaningless if the policy isn’t there to go along with it.

This approach puts BC at odds with the rest of the global community, who are calling for governments to take immediate action on addressing and mitigating climate change.

At a time when it is imperative that we are making meaningful investments in low carbon technologies, our leaders are pulling out all the stops to building fossil fuel infrastructure that will commit the province to an energy-intensive non-renewable industry for the foreseeable future.

BC has all the tools it needs to tackle climate change head on; we have the renewable resources required, and the innovative, creative, and inspired population. All that is missing is the leadership required to focus these efforts.

We need to stop trying to force through projects such as LNG and Site C and start supporting clean energy development.

We need to start paying attention to the consequences of rapid and poorly thought-out resource development, and I would argue to do so we need to form a Natural Resource Board here in British Columbia.

One that mirrors the Forest Practices Board and ensures that the cumulative effects of our resource extraction do not put species and ecosystems at further risk.

Another leading threat to species at-risk is the loss and degradation of habitat. And arguably one of the biggest contributing factors to habitat loss here in British Columbia is the logging of old-growth forests.

Just this past fall I received thousands of emails from citizens across the province expressing their concerns over planned logging in the Walbran Valley and other old growth forests on Vancouver Island.

Old growth forests provide many important environmental and social functions, serving as homes to numerous species at risk and as popular recreation areas for locals and tourists alike. They are essential for both ecosystem integrity and as substantial carbon sinks. It is time they receive a level of protection that reflects their importance to both our ecosystems and our economy.

To ensure this, it is necessary that we take an ecosystem-focused and science-based assessment in decisions concerning forestry and resource management, and I am concerned that this is not what is happening in our Province today.

Instead, by playing the environmental and social concerns off against economic ones, we are merely allowing an unsustainable status quo to continue.

Protecting our remaining old-growth forests while supporting our forest industry do not have to be competing objectives. It is time we take a closer look at the status quo in forestry management in our Province, and work to ensure that we consider at all factors – social, environmental and economic – when we are making decisions.

By ensuring the protection of old-growth forests we can help to protect countless wildlife populations in our province. We can stop pitting one species against another as a means of wildlife management and instead focus on the preservation of all species and ecosystems.

Take the case of the Woodland Caribou.

Last summer, British Columbia announced a controversial wolf cull as a means to protect the South Selkirk and South Peace mountain caribou populations, which are on the brink of extirpation (or local extinction). Now when you start rationalizing the culling one species to protect another you also introduce an ethical element that needs to be considered alongside science.

If you let one of those species become threatened because of your actions the situation becomes immensely worse. Ethically, the wolf cull is a horrible response to an ecosystem out of balance.

From a management perspective, we should be focusing on endangered mountain caribou and the logging practices that got them to where they are today.

Before humans began changing the North American landscape, the woodland caribou’s range extended across Canada. While northern subpopulations of caribou once roamed in massive herds numbering in the thousands, mountain caribou have always been more sparsely distributed. Mountain caribou survive on a lichen-rich diet, especially in winter months, a food source that is intricately linked to old growth forests.

As industrial development and logging activities began to fragment their old growth forest ecosystems, mountain caribou populations began to destabilize. Not only has logging demolished much of their habitat directly, the associated road networks and areas of new growth forest have also brought an influx of moose and white-tailed deer into the ecosystem.

Populations of wolves then followed the moose and deer (their primary prey) and caribou (their secondary prey) are now being killed as bycatch. We are scrambling to save herds of mountain caribou on the brink of extirpation because we weakened their natural habitat and made them vulnerable to increased predation.

Sadly, the future for these threatened caribou is not looking promising; climate change is altering food supplies and habitat conditions, industrial activities are unbalancing ecosystem composition, and human settlement is steadily encroaching on our natural wilderness. All of which serves to highlight the need for increased wilderness protection.

As per requirements enforced under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, the province has protected 2.2 million hectares of forest from logging and road building where populations of caribou are classified as threatened.

These areas have immeasurable value for preserving British Columbia’s biodiversity, especially in light of ongoing global warming. But these areas, a substantial fraction of which are old growth, also have substantial commercial value.

However, without provincial regulations to protect old-growth forests, I am concerned that vast tracts of forests will stop being preserved the moment the threatened caribou herds go extinct. With their death, the protection of their habitat will no longer be enforceable under the Species at Risk Act.

We need to protect as much land as possible from all human activities so remaining wildlife populations have the space and resources needed to respond to predation and food supply challenges.

With that in mind, as leader of the BC Green Party I am calling for an end to all old growth logging on crown land here on Vancouver Island.

This call comes in light of the motion put forward by the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities at their AGM on April 10th, 2016, which resolved that the old-growth forests on provincial Crown Land on Vancouver Island be protected from logging.

Biodiversity is already stressed by climate change, and human interaction – at least in the heavy-handed way that it exists today – simply acts to make it worse.

We need to start taking calculated and proven steps to lessen the negative impacts of human interaction and create a world in which people and wildlife can coexist in a harmonious and complementary way.

Thank you.

Photo Credit: TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance