February 14, 2005

BC Throne Speech lists "golden decade goals" including sustainable ecosystem management

In last week's Throne Speech delivered to the British Columbia Legislative Assembly, Premier Gordon Campbell cited world leadership in sustainable environmental management as one of his government's five "great goals for a golden decade."

The speech noted the considerable progress already been made toward reaching this goal, including the acquisition and preservation of Burns Bog and the Codd Wetlands, the addition and/or expansion of new parks and ecological reserves, passage of species at risk legislation and action to clean up contaminated sites.

An important focus over the next decade will be improved management of parks and protected areas and better overall wildlife management and conservation practices. To this end, the BC government will contribute $6.5 million to the province's Habitat Conservation Trust Fund to support parkland acquisitions and conservation. It will allocate $7.5 million to add up to 50 new park rangers and conservation officers; and it will invest $9 million to establish a BC Conservation Corps, enabling students and graduates to work in BC parks and wilderness areas as a new generation of conservationists.

The Throne Speech also outlined the government's plans to improve water and fisheries management. A new Pacific Salmon Forum will be created to help safeguard BC's wild salmon and improve the province's aquaculture industry. The Living Rivers Strategy will be expanded and new investments will be made in salmonid enhancement and fish habitats.

New resources will be allocated to help implement BC's $16-million Drinking Water Action Plan and the $80-million BC Community Water Improvement program. Campbell also pledged investments to strengthen the 184 water quality monitoring units situated throughout the province. Finally, water plans will be advanced in communities across BC to implement the province's new Drought Management Action Plan.

Complementing water quality initiatives will be measures to improve air quality and airshed management. Campbell committed his government to continued opposition to the proposed Sumas 2 power project in Washington state, and announced his intention to appoint an Alternative Energy and Power Task Force, reporting directly to cabinet on how to promote wind, tidal, solar and run-of-the-river power projects. New airshed management plans will be supported with improvements to the 146 air quality monitoring units throughout BC.

Coinciding with last week's speech was the announcement of the new BC Community Water Improvement program by Murray Coell, Minister of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services. Through the $80-million program, the provincial government will provide two-thirds of the cost of projects to improve drinking water and wastewater management. Local governments will provide a third of the funding, for a total value of $120 million in new projects. Consideration will be given to increasing this amount to 75% of the project costs in small communities for high priority projects. Investments will run from 2005 to 2010.

Applications by municipalities and regional districts for funding under the program should be submitted by February 28, 2005. Criteria for eligibility will include: how much the project will improve the community infrastructure and sustainability, the community's fiscal position, and health and environmental effect. Further details, including application criteria, are available on-line at www.mcaws.gov.bc.ca/lgd/pol_research/grants.html.

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