Among failing sockeye numbers and general uncertainty regarding 2019 salmon returns, the province has announced annual project funding for two species-at-risk conservation programs.
On Tuesday Minister Jonathan Wilkinson of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced project funding to the province’s Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk (AFSAR) and the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk (HSP).
The two programs have approved approximately $4.5 million in funding for nearly 90 new projects combined in 2019-2020.
“Over the past 50 years, the world’s wildlife populations have declined by 60 per cent,” said Wilkinson in a press release Tuesday. “Here in Canada, approximately 544 species have been identified as being at risk under the Species at Risk Act and the list is growing.”
An agreement between the Carrier Sekani First Nations Tribal Council to improve monitoring of spawning white sturgeon on the Nechako River and an agreement with the Langley Environmental Partners Society to improve the habitats of the at-risk Salish sucker and Nooksack dace in the Bertrans Creek Watershed are two examples of projects that have been proposed for funding through the DFO’s investment.
“The decline in biodiversity impacts both our natural environment, and the economy. That’s why, protecting, enhancing and conserving Canada’s species at risk and their habitats is a priority for our government. This funding will enable our partners, including Indigenous organizations across the country to improve our country’s biodiversity and the natural resources that Canadians rely on.”
Shannon McPhail works with the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, a non-profit organization founded in 2004 with the goal of protecting the Skeena river watershed.
McPhail said that it’s nice to hear the two organizations are focused on an Indigenous-centric approach to conservation.
“These are all good things and who better to do it than the people who live in the very place where the work needs to be done?”
But she added that she had questions about just how impactful the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) is, pointing to various regional examples.
“They didn’t include Steelhead on the Thompson and Chilcotin despite their ‘imminent risk of extinction.’ [and] they are humming and hawing about caribou given B.C.’s lack of action.”
The DFO said the investments will help to alleviate human threats to the habitats of aquatic species at risk, as well as support their long-term recovery for future generations.
Environment and Climate Change Canada leads on land-based aspects of AFSAR and HSP, while the DFO takes the lead on aquatic aspects of the programs.
AFSAR supports the involvement of Indigenous communities in SARA implementation by investing in community capacity and encouraging activities that contribute to conservation and recovery of species at risk, while HSP contributes to the recovery of endangered, theatened and other species deemed at risk by engaging Canadians in conversations surrounding conserving wildlife.
SARA was passed in 2002.
It’s goal is to protect organisms deemed endangered or threatened, while also managing species that are not yet threatened but “whose existence or habitat is in jeopardy.”
SARA has six categories for labelling species: Not at Risk, Special Concern, Threatened, Endangered, Extirpated and Extinct.