Local governments are a key player in forest conservation and preparing for climate change

Raincoast’s newly released report identifies gaps in local government efforts to meaningfully address critical environmental issues.

Three people walking through an old grown forest.
Photo by Alex Harris.

Local governments play a critical role in maintaining biodiversity and climate resilience. This role is expected to become increasingly important as the impacts of climate change persist and worsen. With new councils in power across the Capital Regional District and beyond, it is essential that local governments have the power to enact change that will maintain biodiversity and climate stability. 

The Islands Trust is a special interest governance federation legally mandated to preserve and protect the islands in the Salish Sea, but it has been granted limited power to adequately safeguard forests within their jurisdiction. Both the Islands Trust and the provincial government are resistant to pursuing the change needed to ensure the Islands Trust can fulfill its mandate. This was most recently demonstrated in March of this year when the Islands Trust rescinded their request to the province to be given the ability to implement tree protection bylaws. 

Scientists, policymakers, land managers, and others working in conservation often struggle with the social implications of land-use decision-making, and thus seek to maintain an apparent balance between human interest (e.g. economic growth, recreation values, etc.) and ecological preservation.

Over the past three years, Raincoast Conservation Foundation has been working to advance forest protection in the globally rare Coastal Douglas-fir ecological zone, which is characteristic to the south coast of BC. They organized Project TEACH alongside partners including the Coexisting with Carnivores Alliance and the Wildlife Coexistence Lab at University of British Columbia, to collect and share insight from scientists and policy experts. 

The resulting report, released today, contains six recommendations for local governments to improve environmental protection policy through the incorporation of science, Indigenous partnership, and a political cultureshift. 

“Significant tensions exist between recognizing the need for improved approaches and on-the-ground implementation. We are beyond conventional, business-as-usual measures to ensure ecosystems and biodiversity are protected into the future. Innovative solutions and political bravery are needed from all levels of government, and local governments in particular need to step-up to make change,” said Shauna Doll, Forest Conservation Program Director for Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

“Project TEACH connected local leading edge, on the ground science and First Nations’ Knowledge with two global, very problematic issues: the rapidly increasing loss of biodiversity and the increasing impacts of climate change. These crises are acknowledged at all levels of government but it is often at the local and regional political level that solutions need to begin. Project TEACH was undertaken to help develop the knowledge necessary to stimulate local action and to help make it well informed and effective,” said Alastair Craighead of Coexisting with Carnivores Alliance.