As record low salmon returns, floods, drought, erosion, and climate change hit our water, fish, and wildlife resources like never before, today the B.C. government announced $27 million in economic stimulus investment in watershed initiatives and wetlands projects. This investment will not only help put people back to work, and lessen the economic burden of COVID-19, it will also proactively reduce the long-term economic effects of watershed degradation.
Led by the late Al Martin, the BCWF put a focus on watershed sustainability beginning in 2013. In settled parts of the province we have lost 70-95% of our wetland ecosystems; what remains are often degraded fragments of what were once thriving wetlands. This year, we are seeing record low salmon returns on the Fraser, where a number of tributaries have suffered from chronic low flow, flash floods, sedimentation and fish passage issues. Working together with like-minded organizations to mitigate these issues is the key to success.
In March of 2020, the BCWF formalized a partnership with a number of other water groups, to form the BC Watershed Security Coalition. The Coalition represents over 250,000 people across British Columbia. Since March the Coalition has been advocating for watershed security and put together a comprehensive list of over 100 potential projects that were ready-to-go and aligned with the government’s initiative to provide stimulus funding to boost the economy. The coalition focused on flood mitigation, water purification, and restoring high-value fish and wildlife habitat.
“The BCWF is extremely proud to work with the Watershed Security Coalition. Working with these like-minded organizations has helped raise the profile of our water, fish, and wildlife. We are stronger together than we are apart,” said Neil Fletcher, BCWF Manager of Conservation Stewardship. “If funded, the innovative projects proposed by the Coalition will provide a much-needed boost to watershed health.”
BCWF’s proposed projects to put people to work safely outdoors to remove invasive species and plant native riparian vegetation. If funded, this will stabilize our stream banks, help clean water, and provide habitat for a diversity of fish and wildlife species. Today’s announcement in watershed security is a step in the right direction. The BCWF will continue to work with the Coalition to advance a Watershed Security Fund to help conserve, protect and restore B.C.’s watersheds in perpetuity.