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BC government failing to monitor biodiversity, says auditor

A report British Columbia's Auditor General John Doyle released today criticizes the provincial government for failing to do enough to monitor and protect biodiversity.

With its complex geography and varied climate, B.C. is the most biodiverse province in Canada, he said, but noted, "recent assessments have shown that many of its species and ecosystems are declining, and that a number of species are at risk of local extinction."

The report, "An Audit of Biodiversity in B.C.", concluded that significant gaps exist in the government's understanding of biodiversity and that "Government does not know whether its actions are resulting in the conservation of biodiversity."

Nor is it doing enough to find out: "Government is not adequately measuring and reporting on its progress in the conservation of biodiversity."

The report included six recommendations, starting with "make a long-term commitment to collect sufficient and reliable information about the status of biodiversity in B.C. and apply this information to make informed decisions about the conservation of biodiversity."

The government should report regularly to the legislature and the public "on how its actions are impacting the status of biodiversity and how it is meeting its provincial, national and international commitments to biodiversity," it said.

Since 94 per cent of B.C. is Crown land, owned by the public, the "government has a pivotal role in ensuring that biodiversity is conserved now and into the future."

In his introduction to the report Doyle said his office found the government is not fully implementing or monitoring its tools for protecting habitat. "I was disappointed to learn this since my Office identified similar issues in an audit we conducted 20 years ago on habitat protection."

In its response included with Doyle's report, the government argued that 37 per cent of B.C.'s land base is covered by at least one designation protecting biodiversity, including ecological reserves, parks, wildlife habitat areas, ungulate winter ranges and special conservation areas.

"The level of conservation varies with each of these designations, but we are looking at the performance of these areas to better inform future decisions and incorporate climate change mitigation and adaptation," it said.

Given how slowly biodiversity changes, it reports to the legislature and the public often enough, it said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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