Province pledges $100 million for watershed security
The B.C. Wildlife Federation and its partners are celebrating the provincial government’s announcement of $100 million for the Watershed Security Fund in today’s Budget 2023. This investment will enable projects that benefit wild salmon health, clean drinking water, biodiversity, flood resilience, economic opportunities, and reconciliation with First Nations.
“After years of hard work with the BC Watershed Security Coalition the B.C. Wildlife Federation is thrilled to see the province dedicate funds to the Watershed Security Fund,” said BCWF Executive Director Jesse Zeman.
Coree Tull, a co-chair of the Watershed Security Coalition (WSC), a non-partisan, diverse coalition of 48 organizations representing 255,000 British Columbians, said, “we are encouraged to see the Province taking real leadership on watershed security by kickstarting the Watershed Security Fund.”
Tull noted that immediate action and funding are needed because climate change is compounding the impacts of decades of degradation in watersheds, putting the health and security of communities at risk and making it harder for freshwater systems to adapt and recover. She said, “the climate crisis is a water crisis.”
“This injection will help us work with First Nations and our partners to restore wetlands and fish habitat across the province,” said Zeman. “BCWF Director of Strategic Initiatives Al Martin started this initiative back in 2015 and we’re thrilled to see it come to fruition. The BCWF will now be laser focused on getting the same commitment for wildlife as has been promised by the province several times over the past decade.”
Zeman stressed that “dedicated funding is the norm across North America” and said, “after decades of advocacy and boots-on-the-ground restoration work, it’s great to see the Province of British Columbia take leadership on this issue.”
Dedicated funding is essential for the long-term sustainability of fish, wildlife and habitat. Organizations like the BC Wildlife Federation are partnering with Indigenous communities across BC on habitat restoration projects intended to mitigate the effects of industrial development and climate change.
Coalition members point out that investments in water security build on crucial work funded in the past several years through the Healthy Watersheds (HWI) and Indigenous Watersheds Initiatives (IWI). Provincial funding in 2020 and 2021 strengthened the resilience of communities in the face of extreme climate events, created thousands of jobs and training opportunities, supported food security and advanced the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and reconciliation across the province.
Tara Marsden of the Gitanyow (Gitksan) people is a UNDRIP Fellow with the Real Estate Foundation of BC and was the senior Indigenous advisor to HWI. Marsden is optimistic that the government recognizes and funds Indigenous water stewardship and co-governance. “This investment will not only advance reconciliation, but it demonstrates a willingness to take global leadership on implementing UNDRIP”, said Marsden.
The Budget 2023 commitment to kickstarting the Watershed Security Strategy and Fund is a critical step towards the long-term sustainable funding needed to move our province closer to watershed security. It’s an investment and bold move applauded by Ducks Unlimited Canada’s BC operations manager Sarah Nathan.” We know from experience that effectively stewarding aquatic habitats and the key relationships that go along with that work requires dependable long-term funding”, she said. “By nature, stewardship work never ends: in today’s changing climate, good stewardship requires ongoing adaptive management and integration of diverse perspectives.”
For over a decade, the freshwater community, including Indigenous leaders and water funders, have called for long-term sustainable investments in our watersheds. Today’s investment lays the foundation for a plan that supports building healthy and resilient watersheds in every corner of British Columbia.