President’s Report, February, 2011

Posted February 11, 2011 | Categories : Annual Reports |



By Mike Fenger

Another year has flown by for Friends of Ecological Reserves and it is time once again to reflect on our activities, cele- brate our successes and look ahead to what we hope will be a higher profile for Ecological Reserves for both the public and Parks staff in this the Park’s Centennial year.
Happy 100th birthday BC Parks. You began with the Strathcona Park and it certainly has had its share of problems remaining a natural area. Thanks to the Friends of Strathcona who stepped up to halt the encroachment of mining and logging in the first BC park when government was not up to the task of conservation.
Ecological Reserves have not been around as long as Parks. The Ecological Reserves legislation was championed successfully to government by conservation pioneers such as Vladmir Kraijina and Bert Brink. The first ERs were designated in the 1970s under the Ecological Reserves Program staffed by Bristol Foster, Hans Roemer, Jim Pojar and Trudy Chatwin. This program wascontinued by Louise Goulet until the Program was decentralized in 1990 and ER management was then included as part of regional Parks staff responsibilities.
FER continues to believe that there is a need for a coordinated science-based Ecological Reserves provincial program with a focus on study of natural areas. The need for protection, monitor- ing and learning how to manage ecosystems has exponentially increased since the provincial ER Program was discontinued.
There is an increased need and urgency for a higher profile for ERs and the study of natural areas due to the myriad of stresses on BC’s ecosystems such as urban expansion, forestry, grazing, recreation access, oil and gas and mining exploration and the development of pipelines and access roads. Some of these activities are adjacent to existing ERs and are affecting them directly.
The concept of ERs was pio- neered to create    benchmarks so that we (the public who own thenatural areas) could understand how to best manage the greater ecosystems outside of ERs in a manner that sustains the ele- ments of the ecosystems. Collectively our development and our continued plans for expansion of development, means that we are causing frag- mentation of BC’s natural land- scapes and ecosystems.. Ongoing study and periodic assessment (monitoring and reporting) of the ER network is needed if it is to truly serve as a lifeboat for BC’s diversity. Systematic and periodic monitoring will continue to be advocated by FER.
These same gaps in govern- ment management have been identified by the Auditor General in his report on the integrity of ecosystems in ERs and Parks. However, a larger coordinated strategy for monitoring and periodic reporting on the ade- quacy of current measures for conservation for BC has not yet emerged. Without the implemen- tation of a high-level cross- government conservation strat- egy, BC will blunder steadfastly towards a systematic and gradual loss of its biological diversity. A new transparent decision-making process is sorely needed to balance and report on the envi- ronmental risks, the trade offs and the cumulative effects of current development policies.
Using the five strategic goals in the Friends of Ecological Reserves Strategic Plan as a framework, here is a snapshot of 2010 fol- lowed up by some possible activities for 2011.
Goal One. Support for the ER Wardens’ Program.

  • The Okanagan Region had its annual meeting and has provided the template and some inspiration for Parks staff in other regions by demon- strating how to initiate meet- ings with ER Wardens and how to work with volunteers for the betterment of ERs.
  • FER was invited to make a presentation and participate in a panel discussion and meeting of Parks staff in Victoria on how to build partnerships and the results were reported in the Autumn/Winter 2011 edition of the LOG.
  • Vancouver Island Region held a wardens’ meeting in the spring; their    first in a number of years. We hope that this too will become an annual event. Please see the article on page 3.
  • FER together with MOE (Judy Millar and Tory Stevens) up- dated the Wardens list.
  • Letters of concern were sent to Minister Penner responsible for the Environment, and Minister Kevin Kruger responsible for Tourism. We raised our concerns over expansion plans for Big White & Silver Star Ski Resorts where reservoirs on Vance Creek are affecting the flow through the Vance Creek ER (an ER desig- nated to represent riparian ecosystems). After the response from MOE Water Division, FER remains concerned about changes in water use and timing of freshettes and the lack of monitoring of these changes to Vance Creek ecosystems. Sadly we appear to be learning nothing from this ER. The apparent expansion plans and lifts into the Big White ER were on the corporations’ posted strategic plan but no applications have been made for removals from theER for lift lines. These develop- ments were reported in the Spring/Summer edition of the LOG. Thanks to the wardens for these areas who helped track down the on-the-ground facts.

Goal Two. Support Research Studies in ERs.

  • In the past FER was able to provide funding for ongoing research projects from funding provided by Foundations. However, no research funding is currently available to FER. We regret the loss of funds identi- fied for specific deserving researchers and hope to be able to offer funds to research- ers sometime in the future.
  • Some Warden-driven research/monitoring is under- way and some of this informa tion is accessible; e.g., Race Rocks observations which go on the site. Other Wardens have carried out observations and monitor- ing. FER hopes that these field notes will be provided to FER so that they can be available on the FER website,    as well as being passed to MOE for their files.
  • No progress has been made on improving access to and awareness of existing studies being carried out in ERs. Baseline and monitoring can benefit most ERs. FER is not clear where Ministry of Environment is doing field studies in ERs, either using their own staff or contractors. This in part reflects the diffi- culty of having the ER records restricted to regional offices and not centrally managed or shared.
  •  Some of the past research in ERs has now been placed into the up-dated ER handbook.Thank you Tory Stevens for facilitating this! We hope for a much more fluid updating of activities to web sites in the future.

Goal 3. Support Development of a Resilient Science-based ER System.


  • FER engaged in Race Rocks and Scott Island consultation processes to add marine protection to waters around these two Ecological Reserves. This was a learning experience and the process in each ER was lea by a different Federal agency, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada Canadian Wildlife Service. Each agency takes their mandate from their respective acts and neither are able to embrace an ecosystematic approach. DFO addresses fish in the water column and CWS addresses sea birds. Race Rocks has now finished the stakeholder consultation process and drafting instructions have been agreed to in principle. First Nations consultation was separate although a unified management approach was strongly supported. The Ecological Reserves were 30 years ahead of the Federal government and more ecosystematic.
  • The rate at which ERs are being added to the network com- pared to the rate at which they are being removed means BC has a shrinking number of ERs. Happily ERs are being sub- sumed into larger protected areas in National Parks. This affords the lost ERs, in theory, better protection, as this reduces loss of integrity that could result from over develop- ment and fragmentation.V FER supplied information to the Auditor General and fully supportsconcernsraised. The ER system is losing integrity and is incomplete and there is no mechanism to add new ERs.
  • FER received proposals from two environmental groups to add two ERs to the provincial ER system. FER does support the proposed Pink Mountain ER in the Peace Region and the Rosebud ER in the Cariboo. The proposed Rosebud Mountain ER in the Caribou Plateau is described by James Steidle as a spectacular place and the most significant patch of (mostly) unlogged, virgin forest in the entire area, and as such can be an important regional example of an original, old-growth Douglas Fir forest for future generations. FER concurs that there is an absence of represen- tation of Douglas fir ecosystems in the central interior and this is a significant gap and a much needed natural areas bench- mark. The Burke Mountain Naturalists have proposed an ER for Pink Mountain in north- eastern BC. This protection is needed as there are rare and fragile plant communities on the 1700 meter plateau which are at risk from resource extrac- tion, microwave towers and a service road. It needs public support and help to protect this unique assemblage of plants and unusual arctic butterflies. FER supports the proposal that this small area be protected as an Ecological Reserve.

Goal 4. Raise Awareness of the Value of Ecological Reserves.

  • FER maintains the FER web site but it is suffering from its age and the older architecture doesnot make the task of the webmaster easy.
  • We successfully produced three issues of the newsletter the LOG, but are reducing this to two issues as a cost saving measure. FER worked with other ENGOs to promote ERs (i.e., the expansion of the area of marine waters adjacent to existing marine-centred ERs and support for new ERs).
  • FER also believes we had some influence    with    federal Senators and this was reflected in their recommendations to keep lighthouse infrastructure and keepers for Trial Island and Race Rocks ERs. Our argument was that the keepers’ presenceprovides ecological benefits. Extra eyes and ears and a place to house monitoring equip- ment for these fragile areas is a benefit and consistent with the intent of an ER.

Goal 5. Sustain a Nurturing and Effective Organization.

  • Ministry of Environment staff helped boost the morale of the FER Board members by hon- ouring long standing members of the FER Board at a Partnerships Banquet.
  •  In 2010 we had a Board mem- bers’ field trip to San Juan Ridge ER with Hans Roemer and in 2011 visited Woodley Range and Ladysmith Bog ERs with ER warden Gary Backlund. (seearticle on page 13) V We also held our annual field trip to Race Rocks This trip is lead by Pearson College staff and is open to the public .
  • We are also pleased to add a new member to the board and welcome the considerable experience of Dr. Rick Page.
  • We held monthly Board meetings except for the summer months. FER continues to be a small ENGO with no regular staff so keeping volunteers engaged means we need to be friendly and have some fun along the way. As part of our strategic plan we use the following principles to help nurture the group.

FER Values

  • Attachment – we have a strong emotional and intellec- tual attachment to the values that ecological reserves represent.
  •  Volunteers – we support local volunteers dedicated to specific ecological reserves.
  • Science – we value science- based understanding of ecosystems.
  •  Respect – we respect and gain understanding from the wisdom of elders connected to ecological reserves.
  • Youth – we value the energy of youth and strive to encourage their involvement in our organization and with ecolog- ical reserves.
  • Collaboration – we take a collaborative approach to issues and strive to work in partnership with other initia- tives and organizations to accomplish our goals.
  • Focus – we undertake targeted and focused actions, based on our organization’s resources and priorities.

The path ahead will be discussed at the Board meetings but they may include some of the following.
A Look Ahead to 2011

Goal One. Support for the ER Wardens Program.

  • Continue to advocate for Wardens’ programs and pro- mote regular regional meetings and meaningful involvement.
  • MOE has identified Wardens Days as an appropriate activity for the Centennial year and some funds will be applied for to help with this. We will likelyteam up with some other organizations and link to activities planned for parks in order to use these activities to educate the public on the importance and value of ERs.
  • Further explore use of ER Wardens for goal 2 activities and “citizen science”.
  •  Others to be decided.

 Goal 2. Support Research, Studies in ERs.

  • MOE has indicated a willingness to engage in citizen science.
  •  The need for a research strategy for ERs was identified in 2005.


  •  Upcoming Parks Research Forum and possible involve- ment.
  • Get the existing research in each ER accessible on the web.

Goal 3. Support Development of a Resilient Science-based ER System.

  •  Advocate actively for the two new ERs proposed by other organizations. Work through the Auditor Generals Office on a follow-up audit for a more defined process to designate new ERs as well as addressing ecological integrity loss in existing Ecological Reserves.
  • Obtain a list of ERs from the Ministry of Environment with restoration scheduled.

Goal 4. Raise Awareness of the Value of Ecological Reserves.

  • Supportourstudentvolunteer, Elyse Matthews with a ques- tionnaire aimed at UVic profes- sors of Biology and Geography, and their awareness of local ERs and existing or desired field studies.
  • Continue LOG publication and meetings.
  • Improve elements of the web site so that it captures more information.

Goal 5. Sustain a Nurturing and Effective Organization.

  •  ERs received a much higher profile in MOE   and with the public due to the Auditor Generals Report.
  • We hope to increase member- ship and build a larger operat- ing budget. FER intends to continue to be volunteer-run and not acquire staff. This means we will need to stay focused and be satisfied with our small contribution to conservation and not be overwhelmed with the enor- mity of what keeping the biological legacy really means.
  • Continue our field trips and maintain our sense of fun in the course of volunteering.