Murrelets need better protection, says Forest Board

  • Mar. 14, 2005 11:00 a.m.

The Forest Practices Board has recently expressed its concern over what it calls a ‘systematic failure’ by the provincial government to protect threatened species such as marbled murrelets on crown lands.
The Forest Practices Board’s investigation began after the Sierra Club complained about logging practices in the Brand Valley on Vancouver Island, an area of prime marbled murrelet habitat. The murrelets live within 50 kilometres of the coast of BC, and nest in old-growth forest, including here on the islands.
The Forest Practices Board’s main concern is the one percent cap on species conservation land, a policy that the provincial government put in place in 1999. For one, it is up to the forest companies to define the boundaries of the one percent conservation area. Some companies are doing very interesting and thorough research, said Bruce Fraser, chair of the board, but in general, they are somewhat less concerned about endangered species than they are about their timber interests.
“There’s nothing surprising about that, though,” he said. In addition, there is no set target for specific numbers of birds to be conserved, and without a target, it is difficult to measure the success of the conservation areas. The current system focuses on conserving ‘areas’ rather than ‘animals,’ said Mr. Fraser.
Also, it takes a long time for these conservation areas to be established. For example, said Mr. Fraser, the initial complaint about the Brand Valley was in 1999, and it took until 2005 for it to be addressed. Meanwhile, the logging continues.
The FPB is also concerned about the huge science gaps that exist in species conservation. It’s not fully understood yet how much habitat needs to be preserved for a species to be protected; simply logging around one small area affects the microclimate and could affect the birds, and exposes them to more predators.
“You have to look at the whole picture, how much (old growth forest) is left. How much is likely to be suitable habitat. It might be more than one percent,” said Mr. Fraser. “The one-percent cap policy is long overdue for review.”