Many regional districts in BC already have dedicated acquisition funds to protect green spaces. The BC Government should do its part and step forward with a fund to purchase endangered ecosystems, old-growth forests, drinking watersheds and areas of high recreational and scenic value on private lands for future generations of British Columbians.
Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance
BC could raise millions of dollars to protect endangered ecosystems in the province without raising taxes. That’s just one of the findings in a new ELC report prepared for the Ancient Forest Alliance.
Finding the Money to Buy and Protect Natural Lands highlights the urgent need to protect sensitive lands in BC before they are permanently lost to urban growth, industrial activities or other development. The report provides 17 recommendations, including a call for the Province to establish an annual $40 million Natural Lands Acquisition Fund to purchase and protect endangered ecosystems from private landowners.
Because private lands account for such a high percentage of BC’s most endangered, biologically diverse and rich ecosystems, they are disproportionally important for conservation efforts in BC. Land trusts, environmental groups and private citizens can help, but they don’t have the funds to protect enough of the lands at risk.
There are hundreds of examples across the province where a BC Natural Lands Acquisition Trust could protect land – including old-growth forest land – immediately. Time is of the essence as some risks could be imminent: Island Timberlands has recently carved roads into the mountainside above Cathedral Grove, which may mean it could be logged soon.
Fortunately, the report provides many examples of how other jurisdictions are purchasing lands in need of protection. And it offers some relatively easy and low cost mechanisms the Province could implement quickly.
The example that would bring in millions – without raising taxes – would be to collect unredeemed beverage deposits. BC residents pay deposit on soft drink and other containers, which is refunded upon return. If the container is not returned, the deposit remains with the beverage industry. It can be a substantial windfall – in 2014 BC had $16 million worth of unclaimed bottle deposits.
The Province could choose to increase licensing fees for large scale for-profit extraction of groundwater or to establish a tax to offset the depletion of non-renewable resources and use those funds to purchase and protect land. In 2006, revenues from oil and gas sales, fees and rentals in BC generated over $2 billion. Devoting even a small portion of that revenue to a trust would allow industries using up non-renewable resources to compensate future generations by protecting endangered lands.
For more information, see the Media Backgrounder, and to see all the recommendations, read the report [see Finding the Money to Buy and Protect Natural Lands].
- Jack Knox: Pop bottles could give green funding extra fizz (2015 Dec 11) Times Colonist