President’s Report for 2007

By Mike Fenger


Friends of Ecological Reserves have a 30-year history as a volunteer organization and so many people have put their shoulders to the wheel to help protect and manage these absolutely incredible ecosystems and the species within them.  I must begin by giving thanks to all of you who provide your support as members and volunteers. The FER Mission is to support the role of Ecological Reserves in furthering understanding of natural processes and human interactions in ecosystems. We have had, in my estimation, a good year and made progress towards this.

The Year in Review

Our Annual General Meeting was held this year on March 7 at the University of Victoria. We would like to thank Dr. Werner Kurz for providing the lecture portion of the evening with his  “Climate Change and Forests: Impacts and Interactions.”


We were pleased with the good turn out and the lively discussion and question period at the end of Dr. Kurz’s lecuture. For those not able to attend I share some of the key messages I took from Dr Kurz:

w        CO2 growth rate is higher than predicted because: 1) economy is growing especially in India and China; more energy is being used (coal fired generators coming on-stream); reduction in ocean sinks; and reduced terrestrial sink (droughts and disturbances). 

w        Northern Hemispheric forests uptake  2.6 billion tons of CO2.

w        Forests alone can’t solve the global warming trend, the real solution lies in changing our relationship with fossil fuels.

w        Deforestation (permanent conversion of forest to non forest) not only increases CO2 emissions, it also reduces carbon uptake which is critical for mitigating fossil fuel emissions. Globally deforestation is occurring at a rate of 14 million ha annually and in BC we convert about 10,000 ha annually.

w        Use of wood products, when compared to concrete and steel, have a lower net impact on climate change. 

w        Methane gas is twenty-three times more harmful than CO2 so we can improve this by managing landfills differently. 

w        Pricing carbon will be a way of managing our role in the carbon cycle whereas delaying will be more costly. 

w        Forests can be considered a public utility delivering carbon sequestration (in BC the per capita forest is 15 ha). 

w        The values of forests are shifting and value as carbon storage is expected to exceed the value over wood as wood products.

w        Canada’s forests have been a carbon sink but changes in forest (due to fires and beetles) mean that they have become a carbon source. (We still need to manage them carefully to make them as much of a sink as we can.)

w        Longer forest rotations are a means of increasing carbon storage in forests. 


It was good to get a global review of the situation and FER will need to ponder what the best strategy is for long term maintenance of the ER system. 


As part of 2008 annual review, I will restate the purpose of Ecological Reserves taken from the Strategic Plan. First, Ecological Reserves protect examples of representative and unique ecosystems of British Columbia and second they serve as and provide natural benchmarks, research areas, educational resources and repositories of genetic materials and geologic features. The Ecological Reserve system, in concert with other elements of British Columbia’s protected areas system and resource management regime, supports protection, study and understanding of ecosystems, their resiliency, ecological processes and natural elements. 


Goal 1  To support the protection and management of a strong Ecological Reserve System through a strong warden program, systematic inventory and monitoring, timely assessment of reserves and an effective government presence, especially where ERs are most at risk.


Minister Penner provided a letter to Friends (see spring LOG) stating that “the ministry is fully committed to ensuring that the ERs are managed to protect the values for which they were designated” and that “We will endeavour to work with FER to have a volunteer warden in each of the ER in the province.”


w        Friends of Ecological Reserves, as part of the LOG mail out, maintains a data base of ER wardens. From our data, we note that one warden retired and a replacement was recruited. This means in the last year there has been no net gain in the warden program.

w        FER did ask for warden reports and FER is moving to making reports accessible, (on the FER website) independent of the Ministry of Environment. We have received limited response from wardens. 

Follow-up 2008

w        FER to meet with MOE management to find out how to move forward. FER believes the recommendations made in the State of Ecological Reserves is the most practical approach for the Ministry. The recommendation is to have a headquarters- level person responsible for ERs.

w        Re-iterate to wardens our willingness to make information available based on their reports.  Regionalization by MOE has decreased the access to information on ERs. 


Goal 2 – To support the study of ecological reserves that builds understanding of ecosystem resiliency, ecological processes and natural elements.


w        We are pleased once again to be able to provide research funds to Dr Tom Reimchen for work on salmon/forest connections (10K) and Dr Jane Watson on marine ecosystems (sea otters) 10K.

w        We also provided bridge financing for the Vicky Husband Scholarship which is now set up as a trust. (see letter in Autumn 2007 Log from winner of this scholarship).

w        As an non-government organization, FER provides tax receipts to third parties who support natural areas research. 

Follow-up 2008

w        Continue to seek third party funding to support natural areas research in ecological reserves.

w        Seek to increase government and academic institutions in involvement with Ecological Reserves and promote baseline inventory.


Goal 3 – To support the development of a resilient and enduring science-based ecological reserve system.


w        Thanks to Mary Rannie for attending the field trip to review a potential new ER in Fort Graham within the Spatsizi Park and near Gladys Lake ER.  Thanks go to Parks in Smithers and Janice Joseph (Dease Lake) for organizing this trip. The field report (see pages 6 to 9 in this Log) shows that the area identified is a well used, low elevation mineral lick and is well suited to the ER designation. 

w        The FORREX report, “Sustainable Forestry Benchmarks for British Columbia” was supported by Friends Board and used as the basis for a submission for funds to establish a network of natural research watersheds in BC.  This publication shows the current gaps and limitations of the ecological reserve system especially in the interior plateau, and links the need for new reserves and monitoring to climate change and mountain pine beetle forest disturbance. The proposal to initiate implementation of recommendations for watershed-level monitoring between provincial and federal agencies was unsuccessful.

Follow-up 2008

w        Continue to support the Graham Portage ER proposal.

w        Provide some potential options to the Ministry of Environment to designate an ER in honor of Bert Brink.

w        Provide a strategic review of potential ERs from the list of 200+ that were identified when MOE had an ER program.

w        Seek additional support to implement the recommendations of Sustainable Forestry Benchmarks. 


Goal 4 – To raise awareness of the value of ecological reserves among targeted groups, including: local and provincial elected officials; public servants; neighbours of ecological reserves; and the conservation community.


w        FER was invited to attend a workshop and become a member of the Elders Council. Being involved with other like-minded organizations on protection and management of natural areas is seen as a real boost to this small organization. Never has the need for strategic long-term thinking over natural areas been greater.  This is especially true in light of climate change.

w        The Sustainable Forestry Benchmarks publication and extension to FORREX members (5,000), has helped to increase understanding of the need for benchmarks. 

Follow-up 2008

w        Re-apply for funding to establish benchmarks where needed and to begin monitoring of benchmarks within the protected areas system.

w        Continue to participate with Elder Council on areas of mutual benefit.


Goal 5 – To sustain a nurturing and effective organization that supports the maintenance and development of ecological reserves and the concepts underpinning them.


FER is a small organization and though we have discussions about staffing and joining the ranks of CPAWs, Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy, we have resisted this. We continue to see our role as a catalyst for change and management of ERs without building infra structure that we believe rightly belong in government.

Changes on the Board

Leaving the board are Alison Nicolson, Evelyn Hamilton and Peggy Frank. They all have contributed so much and helped guide FER in so many ways.  Evelyn, who organized the science advisory group for FER, is now manager of research in Ministry of Forests and Range. We are pleased with her new position and expect to continue to work with Evelyn in her new capacity.


Peggy Frank has had a long association with FER (corporate memory) and was instrumental in organizing the Provincial Wardens gathering and for revising the Warden Handbook. Peggy also had a hand in the compiling and writing of  the State of ER report. We will miss her pleasant and positive attitude.


Alison was also instrumental in the State of ER report, taking on the editing task in the end and has been the web master for FER. Alison’s dedication and analytical skills will be missed.


These three wonderful people really shaped the FER strategic plan and goals. Thank you all so much. We know that we have not lost access to you and that you  will remain friends and friends of Friends.


FER is pleased to welcome Wynne Miles as a new member of the board. Wynne is an experienced botanist and will provide new and welcome insight.

Follow-up 2008

w        Establish a new web master and bring the web up to date.

w        Include wardens reports and field trips on the web.

w        Establish a finance committee to ensure continued financial support.

w        Get out and visit ERs