Last month, BC’s Auditor General released “An Audit of Biodiversity in BC” regarding the provincial government’s efforts to protect biodiversity in the province. Although the report received some attention in the media, the coverage certainly paled in comparison to any previous report related to financial accountability.
Unfortunately, the Auditor General’s report on biodiversity did not contain much positive news for British Columbia’s wildlife and its habitat. The report concluded that:
- “Significant gaps exist in government’s understanding of biodiversity in B.C.
- Government does not know whether its actions are resulting in the conservation of biodiversity.
- Government is not adequately measuring and reporting on its progress in the conservation of biodiversity.”
What is perhaps most disturbing about these findings is not that there are gaps in our understanding about biodiversity. Biodiversity is a complex subject, gaps are to be expected. The most worrisome aspect of this report is that the gaps are so extensive that they are rendering action on biodiversity conservation to be meaningless. Our understanding is so limited that we are unable to determine whether effective conservation is occurring at all.
Historically, provincial and federal government departments hired teams of biologists to collect data on wildlife populations and ecology. Over time, these positions have changed to give priority to management strategies rather than data collection. It is disheartening, but perhaps not surprising, to realize the impact that this shift has had.
While the contents of the report are frustrating on many levels, it is important to remember that the provincial government does not exist in a vacuum and that other agencies are able to support the protection of BC’s biodiversity. A 2010 report from the Auditor General’s office identified the small size and lack of connectivity as a limiting factor for the ecological integrity of BC’s provincial parks. Both land trusts and regional governments are able to assist the province in filling these gaps and supporting our parks system.
British Columbia is fortunate to be home to the highest levels of biodiversity in Canada. I hope that the Auditor General’s report provides a catalyst to remind us not to take this amazing abundance for granted and to do what is needed to protect our wildlife and its habitat.