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HomeNewsGovernment of Canada Announces UNESCO Endorsement for the Nature Trust of BC

Government of Canada Announces UNESCO Endorsement for the Nature Trust of BC

On February 21, 2024 in Victoria, BC., the Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Hon. Diane Lebouthillier, publicly congratulated the Nature Trust of BC (NTBC) for the endorsement they received from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) because of their Enhancing Estuary Resilience in Coastal BC projects.

From L-R: Wes Shoemaker, Jonathan Wilkinson, Steven Henstra, Larry George (Photo DFO Media Relations)

This recognition is prestigious and recognizes the contribution that the Nature Trust is making to the UN’s Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development Initiative that runs until 2030.

The Nature Trust of BC Englishman River Estuary (Photo NTBC)

Other attendees at this event included Wes Shoemaker, the executive head of the Federal Government’s $647 million Pacific Salmon Strategic Initiative (PSSI); Steven Henstra, Nature Trust’s lead on the restoration, monitoring and inventory team; and Larry George, who is in charge of the Cowichan Tribes lands and governance portfolio.

Nature Trust’s Curtis Rispkin collecting data from a BC estuary (NTBC Photo)

The Cowichan Tribes are one of the more than a dozen First Nations groups who, along with other restoration organizations and agencies, are working collaboratively with the Nature Trust to bring estuaries on Vancouver Island and the mainland BC coast back to their natural resilient condition.

The Cowichan River Estuary Project involves removing two kilometers of dikes from the Dinsdale farm and Kosilah River marshes. This project, which encompasses over 28 hectares, will restore natural inter-tidal channels, create salt marsh habitats and rejuvenate the riparian and flood-fringe forests that once existed on this site.

The Cowichan River estuary project lands (photo NTBC)

Enhancing Estuary Resilience in Coastal BC is a five year project that has been supported by the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF). Seventy percent of this fund comes from the Federal Government and 30% from the Province of BC. Since 2019 it has provided $8,432,473 to the Nature Trust. In addition technical and scientific support has come from the Pacific Salmon Strategic Initiative. Similar work is ongoing in the estuaries of the Nanaimo, Little Qualicum, Salmon, Chemainus, Quatse, Englishman and Moheya Rivers.

Salmon River Estuary (Photo Hakai Institute / NTBC)

Wilkinson also announced an additional $3,493,975 will be made available to the Nature Trust allowing them to continue their estuary projects until March 2026. To date the BCSRIF has supported a total of 155 projects in BC worth over $214 million dollars.

Wilkinson also noted the critically important role that estuaries play in sustaining overall river health particularly for salmon, trout and other species that rely on these transition areas for food before moving into the ocean environment, as well as the creatures that live out their entire life cycles in these habitats.

“The province’s coastal estuaries are especially vital habitat to important Pacific salmon species, providing food for young fish as well as many other aquatic and land based animals” (Wilkinson, Victoria BC, Feb 21, 2024).

The announcement also linked salmon and healthy estuaries to cultural, social and economic values that accrue to BC residents through stable jobs and income, and recreational enjoyment, noting that estuaries only make up 3% of our coastline but they support 80% of BC’s coastal fish and wildlife.

The Nature Trust’s Steven Henstra added that restoring estuaries will fortify these environments against the threats posed by climate warming. Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Diane Lebouthillier, provided this quote that highlights the growing concerns over climate warming.

“Understanding the impacts of sea-level rise and other effects of climate change on estuaries is vital to improving the health of our wild fish stocks in BC. The Nature Trust’s work to monitor, assess and restore this habitat is central to our goal of protecting Pacific Salmon populations”.

Wilkinson also made a second announcement that highlighted Chevron Oil’s relinquishment, without compensation, of the last remaining offshore gas and oil permits in Canada’s Pacific region. This relinquishment also fulfills a pledge made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to First Nations two years ago, under the Great Bear Sea Project Finance for Permanence Initiative, which is an indigenous led conservation program.

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