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NEWS RELEASE · 11th June 2010
Ministry of Environment
Environment Minister Barry Penner announced today the members of a task force that will provide recommendations for the continued protection and recovery of species at risk in British Columbia.

"We are seeking advice on whether changes to the existing regulatory framework in B.C. are required to meet ecological and socio economic objectives," said Penner. "Our government has protected habitat for various species by establishing 65 new Class A provincial parks, 144 conservancies, two ecological reserves and nine protected areas since 2001. In 2008, we also more than doubled penalties under the Wildlife Act for killing endangered species, with maximum fines of up to $500,000 and jail sentences of up to 3 years."

The provincial government committed in the August 2009 speech from the throne to form a Species at Risk Task Force to provide recommendations to the Government on defining a new vision with an overarching measurable outcome that British Columbians can work together to achieve within the next decade, including:

* Defining Vision, Principles and Outcomes: Where should our conservation efforts be focused, what principles should guide future development of a species at risk program in B.C., and what are the measurable outcomes that best address the fundamental threats to biodiversity in B.C. and help us achieve our vision?

* Environmental Management: In light of climate change and multiple development demands, what management methods need to be advanced to meet our conservation targets?

* Private Land Stewardship: How do we advance private land stewardship and conserve species and ecosystems at risk on private land in B.C. while respecting the interests of taxpayers?

The 10 members of the task force were selected to reflect a range of regions, backgrounds and sectors. They will be led by Bruce Fraser, past chair of the B.C. Forest Practices Board.

"Our job as a task force is to formulate advice on how to advance our provincial effectiveness in dealing with species at risk," said Fraser. "There is hardly a more complex environmental task than to weave our human economy into the ecosystems of the province without damaging our biodiversity or increasing the toll on our rich species endowment. I hope the work of the group will provide some practical ideas for consideration by government."

The task force will make recommendations to the Cabinet Committee on Environment and Land Use by the end of December 2010.

The task force will build upon some successful conservation programs already in place in British Columbia. For example, the B.C. Conservation Data Centre assesses the status of the province's species and ecosystems using internationally accepted and endorsed methodologies.

The B.C. Conservation Framework, developed by the Ministry of Environment in collaboration with scientists, conservation organizations, industry and government, assigns priorities to these species and ecosystems to direct the focus of conservation actions. The ministry has completed recovery strategies for 73 species at risk, and recovery planning for an additional 48 species is underway for a total of 121 species.

Today, a total of 14.27 per cent (or more than 13.5 million hectares) of British Columbia is protected - more than any other province in Canada. It is an area equal to the size of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. combined.