British Columbia has the richest biodiversity of any Canadian province. It is home to 76 percent of Canada's bird species, 70 percent of its freshwater fish species, and thousands of other animals and plants. Well over 3,600 species call BC home, and many of these, such as mountain goat and mountain caribou, live mostly — or only — in the province. For others, such as the migratory trumpeter swan and sandhill crane, BC is a critical wintering ground or stopover. Unlike most Canadian and US jurisdictions, BC still has all the large species that were present at the time of European settlement, including grizzly bears, wolverines, wolves, and cougars.
However, scientists tell us that more than 1,600 species, from blue birds to killer whales, are currently at risk in BC and levels of endangerment are especially high within some wildlife groups.
The good news is that, with strong laws and appropriate planning in our own backyard, we can successfully reverse or at least slow this tragic trend. The province can bolster the conservation gains achieved thus far (e.g. the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement) by introducing a strong provincial Species and Ecosystem Protection Act. A strong Act would:
- Identify species and ecosystems at risk through an independent, scientific listing process;
- Immediately protect the full habitat of listed species and ecosystems until a final decision
is made about how much long-term protection they need; and
- Restore species and ecosystems to health.