Tiny fish at heart of big legal win for endangered species
“Don’t diss the Dace” was one of the slogans we toyed with at the Livable Region Coalition, since the Nooksack Dace was one of the creatures ignored by the Highway #1 expansion Environmental Assessment. We didn’t use it of course but we thought that perhaps if there was something apparently “more significant” that we might get the public’s attention. After all the red legged frog’s habitat was sacrificed for a “dramatic gateway” on the Sea to Sky Highway which served no more useful purpose than something that people speeding to and from the Olympics might glance at briefly. A tunnel would have been cheaper and quicker – and saved the rare Eagleridge Bluffs habitat. The sandhill cranes and a variety of voles have fared no better with the SFPR. But even “charismatic megafauna” do not seem to grab the public’s attention very much these days. The polar bears played a role in the fight to get recognition of the reality of global warming – not that it has actually got anything done. The loss of the wild salmon, mostly due to the greed of a few fish farming companies, now threatens the orca and the grizzly bear – but the grizzly bear hunt will proceed anyway. And anyway the DFO pretends not to know that it is the fish farms that are mainly responsible for the loss of the wild salmon.
What is important about Nooksack Dace Court Decision is that the courts have upheld an important principle. That the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans actually does have some responsibilities with regard to the environment not just the short term political interests of the party currently in power in Ottawa – or the interests of the fish farming industry.
A Federal Court ruling Sept. 9 found the Department of Fisheries and Oceans failed to identify the critical habitat of the Nooksack dace, a move that would have triggered more specific protection of the fish under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
Or rather they actively suppressed the publication of a map that identified where this habitat is – or was. The article identifies that this impacts a lot of private properties. But it would also have triggered some attention for the stream crossings impacted by the Highway #1 expansion. (The Brunette River habitat was not identified until 2005). Not that that would actually help the Dace either, since the “mitigation” offered by that project for habitats that were identified, turned out to be projects that were already in place as mitigation for earlier projects.
The whole point about doing an EA is to try and minimize damage to the ecosystems in the path of the major projects. Not that there is necessarily any guarantee that this mitigation will actually work. But at least its a start. Of course if we actually gave a damn about our environment, and looked at projects objectively, we might reasonably conclude we would be better off building something else. Of course an EA in BC is not allowed to say “no” to any project, no matter how much damage it might do, or how poorly it might perform. The only alternative evaluated is always “do nothing”, to make the preferred project look good. But even Gordon Campbell acknowledges that the Canada Line has the equivalent people carrying capacity of ten lanes of freeway – but he would still rather build the freeway.
There have not been many successes in this field recently, so we should celebrate this one. Not that it will change much that is already happening. The DFO will study the decision. No doubt there will be appeals – or possibly some minor tweaks will be made the regulations – or even, following the brave example of former Minister of Deregulation in BC Kevin Falcon, the whole apparatus can be dismantled in the name of greater efficiency and tax reductions.
We could try protests of course. But something else I read this morning rang true
“the same toolkit of protest methods that activists have been using with diminishing returns, and governments have been brushing aside with increasing success, since the dawn of the twentieth century. The handful of successes achieved by those methods many decades ago have imposed a bizarre astigmatism of the imagination on the left; the stereotyped methods of protest have become so sacrosanct, or so automatic, that the mere fact that they have failed consistently for years never quite seems to register.”
If you still feel that Burns Bog might be important you might want to respond to this call – which turned up four times in my inbox today
Please attend the September 14th Delta Council meeting to help save Burns Bog and stop the South Fraser Freeway.
Previously Delta Council, on advise of municipal legal counsel decided not to invoke the dispute resolution mechanism under the Burns Bog Protection Covenant and a motion to seek a second opinion was
However the Burns Bog Conservation Society forged ahead and obtained a second opinion from an expert in Environmental Law. This opinion has been forwarded to Council and is on the agenda to be discussed at the
September 14th meeting. Ideally Council will agree to take on immediate action to invoke the Covenant. We want to fill every seat in the council chambers, in order to convince them to take action.
The meeting starts at 6.45 pm at Delta Municipal Hall, 4500 Clarence Taylor Crescent, Delta. Bring a friend if you can. If you know of anyone else that maybe interested in attending please call them as well
The 640 bus from Scott Road Station goes to the Ladner exchange which is a short walk away.
It’s a long shot of course, that Delta Council will change its mind. And that if it does the huge scrapers and bull dozers that are wrecking the farmland around the bog will be stilled for a while. That Gordon Campbell will admit he was wrong all along and that we do not actually need the Gateway Program: that port and highway expansions are now irrelevant.
You might even believe that Stephen Harper will start saying things in public that are closer to his true beliefs that he adumbrates only behind closed doors. That’s probably more likely than the DFO will actually do what it was set up to do and what it is supposed to do by law. After all its track record of saving fish is not exactly stellar.