50th Anniversary Timeline – Ecological Reserve Act

Posted February 14, 2021 | Categories : 300,400,500,BC Parks,History,News,People |

50th Anniversary Timeline – Ecological Reserve Act

Following Canada’s commitment to implement the International Biological Program in the early 1960s, and scientific studies in the 1950s and 1960s by UBC Plant Ecologist Dr. Vladimir J. Krajina and other academics, Ray Williston, Minister of Forests, Lands and Water Resources supported the concept of protected reserves representing each ecological zone set aside for scientific research and monitoring. These early efforts were supported by and backed by the Federation of BC Naturalists.

Key Dates
January 27, 1971 – Ray Williston, Minister of Forests, Lands and Water Resources introduces the concept of ecological reserves and credits Dr Vladimir Krajina with the extensive studies to support the selection of locations for such reserves (see page 3).

March 17, 1971 – Williston introduces the Ecological Reserves Bill introduced in the B.C. Legislature; goes to second reading where it is supported and strengthened by the Opposition.

April 2, 1971 – After passing unanimously, the Ecological Reserve Act receives Royal Assent and becomes law

May 4, 1971 – The first Order-in-Council under the Ecological Reserve Act establishes the initial 29 ecological reserves in B.C.

Important Links:
Minister Williston’s first mention of ERs in the B.C. Legislature appears in Hansard on pages 78/79 in his speech during debate on the Throne Speech.

The ERA was introduced and passed during the second session of the 29th Parliament in 1971.

The bill was introduced on the afternoon of March 17, 1971.

The process of second reading is when legislators have their say.

Debate on the proposed legislation is at this link –

The Act received Royal Assent on April 2, 1971, bringing it into law.


ERs # 1-29 are as follows:
Cleland Island, East Redonda Island, Soap Lake, Lasqueti Island, Lily Pad Lake,
Buck Hills Road, Trout Creek, Clayhurst, Tow Hill, Rose Spit, Sartine Island,
Bereford Island, Triangle Island (Anne Vallee), Solander Island,
Saturna Island (transferred to Gulf Islands National Park Reserve in 2004),
Mount Tuam, Canoe Islets, Rose Islets, Mount Sabine, Columbia Lake,
Skagit River Forest, Ross Lake, Moore/McKenney/Whitmore Islands, Baeria Rocks,
Dewdney and Glide Islands. Ram Creek, Whipsaw Creek, Ambrose Lake, and Tranquille.
See map at




Additional Background


Excerpt from article by Jenny Feick on Dr Vladimir Krajina for the Victoria Naturalist, March/April 2021 Issue

“Starting in the 1950s amid a logging boom, UBC Plant Ecologist Dr Vladimir J. Krajina advocated protecting B.C.’s diverse natural ecological gene pool in “nature museum” sites[1]. On November 25, 1965, Krajina, an official from the provincial museum, and other academics met with Ray Williston, then Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources. They convinced him that creating such reserves would support Canada’s upcoming Centennial and its commitment to participate in the International Biological Program (IBP). The following year, the Terrestrial Communities Subcommittee of the Canadian Committee of the IBP, comprised of elected government officials, civil servants, and academics, refined the concept of ecological reserves and laid the basis for survey work to inform establishment of ecological reserves across B.C. Encouraged by Krajina and other scientists, Williston and W.K. Kiernan, the Minister of Recreation and Conservation, agreed in 1968 to form an Ecological Reserve Committee to advise on the selection of potential reserve sites. Krajina served as the co-chair. In the Provincial Legislature in 1969, Minister Williston declared that these proposed reserves would “represent specific examples of biogeoclimatic zones of the Province. Their reservation will ensure that the present and future requirements of ecologists for biological study will be satisfied for all time”. 3 Early in 1971, during the Throne debate at the Legislature in Victoria, Minister Williston presented the multi-year study results and announced “that an Ecological Reserves Bill would be presented during the upcoming session of the legislature”[1], the second session of the 29th Parliament. The Ecological Reserve Act was introduced on the afternoon of March 17, 1971. At the second reading of the Bill, Williston announced, “it is our hope to establish at least one hundred ecological reserves in the Province. They are being handled, basically, as a study function with the cooperation of the Lands Branch, but most of the study work is being carried out by the University of British Columbia, at the present time, and Dr. V. Krajina is the person who has been largely responsible for developing the programme which we have at the moment.” Following spirited debate, where the Honourable Member for Surrey said that he saw ecological reserves as potential “living laboratories”, the BC Legislature unanimously voted to pass the Act with the goal of establishing at least 100 ecological reserves by 1980. During the debate, several Opposition members expressed concerns about the need to better enshrine the protection of ecological reserves, e.g., “The one thing that I feel is missing in the act, Mr. Speaker, in closing the remarks on second reading, is that we feel that these ecological reserves are so important that, once established, they should only be changed by an act of the Legislature and not by ministerial decree.” The Honourable Member for Kootenay and others remarked that it seemed odd to have the Act in the Lands, Forests, and Water Resources Department rather than the Department of Recreation _____________________________________________________________________________________
[2] Wali, M. K. 1988. “Reflections on the life, work, and times of Vladimir
Joseph Krajina”, Can. J. Bot. 66: 2605-2619, p 2614.

[3] Wali, Mohan K. and Jim Pojar. 2016. “The Legacy of Vladimir J. Krajina and
Contributions to UBC Botany”, Conference: Centennial of the University of
British Columbia in 2015, p 14.

[4]  Drabek, J. 2012, Vladimir Krajina: World War II Hero and Ecology Pioneer,Ronsdale Press, Vancouver, B.C., p. 149

and Conservation.  The Honourable Member for Dewdney observed, In my opinion, this bill will be hailed as one of the great landmarks in environment and ecology of our country… I’m sure this bill will be a standard for the rest of Canada and perhaps for the continent.” (Tuesday March 23, 1971 afternoon sitting, 1971 Legislative Session: 2nd Session, 29th Parliament, HANSARD).  The Act received Royal Assent on April 2, 1971, bringing it into law.

Passage of the Ecological Reserve Act led to the establishment of the ecological reserve system in B.C. On May 2, 1971, the Government of B.C. issued the initial Order-in-Council under the Act to establish the first 29 ERs. By 1980, 101 ecological reserves were created, 66% of the 154 that were eventually designated.  In 1973, the BC government established Ecological Reserve # 45 at Port Chanal on the west coast of Graham Island in Haida Gwaii, one of largest reserves in the province[5], naming it the Vladimir J. Krajina Ecological Reserve in his honour[6]. Regulations under the Act were brought into force on April 28, 1975 by which time Krajina “told a botany seminar at UBC that there were now 59 reserves covering 104,073 acres, while 235 proposals have been presented to the [provincial] government so far”[7].

Implementation of Krajina’s ecological reserve concept provided a legacy with multiple benefits in biodiversity conservation, environmental monitoring, scientific research in diverse fields, and environmental education.  The system was studied and adopted not only in other provinces in Canada but also elsewhere in the world, including Western Australia.

Krajina’s frequently repeated goal was to protect one per cent of B.C.’s land area in ecological reserves.  By the time Dr Krajina passed away on June 1, 1993, B.C. had over 130 ecological reserves, protecting 160,000 ha, one-tenth of his goal[8]. Sadly, progress slowed following his death.

With 88.7 million ha of Crown land in B.C., one per cent would equal 887,000 ha. According to the BC government’s published records, the amount set aside in the entire protected areas system, including ecological reserves, comprises 13.4 million ha, which is 14.2 % of the BC land base (Government of British Columbia 2011, p 43). [9]Additional legal constraints on timber harvesting provide additional protection leading some provincial government officials to conclude that 17% of B.C.’s Crown land is protected (Bawtinheimer, pers comm, May 26, 2020). As of February 2021, the 148 ecological reserves still under B.C.’s jurisdiction[10] protect 112,112 ha. Small in size, the land and marine foreshore area in

[5] 9,174 ha, comprised of 8,057 ha of upland and 1,117 ha of foreshore

[6] The page devoted to the Vladimir J. Krajina ER (#45) on the Friends of Ecological Reserves (FER) website contains not only information about this ecologically amazing reserve, but also additional information on the life of Dr Krajina. See

[7] Drabek 2012, p 151

[8] The number quoted is 131 ERs in Ceska, Adolf et al, “A Tribute to Vladimir Krajina”, The Log, Newsletter of the Friends of Ecological Reserves, Fall 1993. Accessed online at BC Parks records indicate that 134 ERs had been established by the end of 1993.

[9] See

[10] In the mid-2000s, the BC government transferred six ERs to other government agencies. Five ERs went to Parks Canada. Three ERs in the Skeena Region went to Gwaii Hannas National Park Reserve, #44 – East Copper/Jeffrey/ Rankine Islands, #95 – Anthony Island, and #96 – Kerouard Islands; and two in the West Coast Region went to Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, #121 – Brackman Island and #15 – Saturna Island. ER #74 (UBC Endowment Lands/Pacific Spirit) in the South Coast Region went to Metro Vancouver Regional Parks. The BC government transferred 521 ha of land to other agencies with the six ERs it gave away.

B.C.’s ecological reserves comprises just 0.13% of the Crown land base[1]. To reach Krajina’s goal of one percent will require the setting aside of an additional 774,888 ha in ecological reserves.

The 50th anniversary of the Ecological Reserve Act provides an opportunity to reflect on Dr. Krajina’s legacy, and to resume efforts to achieve his conservation vision. Impetus for such action was bolstered when on September 28th, 2020 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s commitment to protect 25 % of the country’s lands and waters by 2025, and 30% by 2030. Provincially, it will help to implement the recommendations of the 2020 Old-Growth Strategic Review Panel Report and support the efforts of First Nations in adding Indigenous protected and conserved areas.

You can do your part to honour Dr Krajina’s work to initiate B.C.’s ecological reserve system by asking your MLA and key elected officials to make an official proclamation to commemorate Dr Vladimir Krajina and the 50th anniversary of the Ecological Reserve Act, and to mark this occasion by adding additional ecological reserves to fill gaps in the system, enhancing the stewardship of the existing 148 ecological reserves, and ensuring all ecological reserves have volunteer wardens and management plans. If you would like to assist the Friends of Ecological Reserves (FER) in supporting Dr Krajina’s vision by commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Ecological Reserve Act, you can find more information at and contact FER at”

Ray Williston’s Speech Introducing the Concept of Ecological Reserves in the B.C. Legislature on Wednesday, January 27, 1971

“One word, Mr. Speaker, on the matter of ecological reserves. In 1967, in Canada, certain groups, determined to set aside ecological reserves across this country for the purpose of scientific investigation in this province — groups from the universities, Government resource departments, and other interested persons — have been making field examinations for selected areas for ecological reserves. One of the reasons for establishing these reserves is to provide very small workshop areas for scientific research and educational purposes associated with our environment. In addition, the reserves also serve to set aside examples of natural ecosystems within the Province and preserve rare or endangered plants and animals in their native habitat. These reserves are not necessarily intended to provide recreational sites but are specific for the purposes for which I have mentioned. To date, my Department has set aside 26 of these ecological reserves on its records, covering a wide variety of locations throughout the Province. A further 14 (and the top of the world is not a situation of this kind) that have been suggested by the Committee are in the process of being checked by the Environmental and Land Use Committee with respect to legal status and other matters which will be adjudged in the near future.

The Committee has indicated that it will probably require another five years to complete the programme of field work, at which time it is anticipated that, over the Province as a whole, there may be a hundred or so of these spots, at various elevations as we go up the hillsides, and at various climatic regions in the interior and in the dry belt, the coast and coastal forests, in the north, in the Kootenays, the Okanagan, the Queen Charlotte’s, Vancouver Island, which will give a complete pattern area for study of the ecological circumstances of this Province. I’d like to give particular praise to Dr. V.J. Krajina of the University of British Columbia, who has spent a great deal of time on this particular aspect.”


[1] See