‘We have a biodiversity crisis’: feds announce $175 million for new conservation projects

by Sarah Cox of the Narwhal

“Indigenous-led initiatives in Clayoquot Sound and the Sacred Headwaters region are among 68 conservation projects across Canada to receive $175 million in new federal funding, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced in Victoria on Monday at an oceanside event crashed by a dozen shouting protesters.

McKenna also announced an additional $4.3 million for 49 projects to protect species at risk of extinction, including a project in the district of Oak Bay to support the recovery of 14 at-risk plant species in Uplands Park, such as the rare bearded owl-clover and water-plantain buttercup.

“We have a biodiversity crisis and we’re losing species — animals, nature, plants,” McKenna told reporters, local politicians and dignitaries who included former long-time federal environment minister David Anderson.

The minister said 67 conservation projects — including 27 initiatives to create new Indigenous protected and conserved areas — will be supported through the Canada Nature Fund, which aims to expand the country’s connected and protected areas as part of the Trudeau government’s pledge to double the amount of nature that Canada protects.

An additional project, to protect land and water in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, will be funded through Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

The nature fund and heritage conservation program are part of Canada’s $1.35 billion Nature Legacy initiative, launched last year to help meet commitments under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims to reverse the global destruction of nature and biodiversity loss.

The Nature Legacy initiative represents the single largest government investment in nature conservation in Canada’s history.

Canada and other nations agreed to accelerate biodiversity commitments in 2018, committing to protect at least 17 per cent of terrestrial areas and inland water and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2020 through networks of protected areas and other conservation measures.

Tahltan aim to protect areas with salmon, caribou

McKenna said the funding includes $3.9 million for the Tahltan Central Government in northwest B.C. “to advance environmental stewardship and protection” through land-use planning and the identification of conservation opportunities.

“This region is home to many species at risk and significant habitat that provides a link to the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor, the Great Bear Rainforest and other protected areas,” McKenna told onlookers, whose applause drowned out the protesters’ shouts about everything from climate change to salmon farming to the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Christine Creyke, lands manger for the Tahltan Central Government, called McKenna’s announcement “very exciting.”

“Tahltan have been talking about these areas for decades now,” Creyke told The Narwhal. “With the amount of development that’s happening in our territory we really need to see some areas with protection.”

Creyke said land-use planning will involve three areas the Tahltan would like to protect, including the Shelsey area northwest of Telegraph Creek, which she described as “a very important area for cultural purposes but also as habitat for caribou and salmon.”

“The spawning habitat for salmon is in one of the lakes close to the Shelsey and that was one of the drivers for choosing that area, because caribou and salmon are both species that are of big concern.”

Mount Edziza, which the Tahltan call Ice Mountain, is the second region. Mount Edziza is protected as a provincial park but Creyke said one key area, where junior mining exploration company Skeena Resources holds a mineral tenure, was left out.

“Over the past years we’ve been working with the province and the company on giving that area back to the Tahltan,” she said."

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