City backs move for greater controls over environment and watersheds
One city co uncillor is hoping to get the province to look at the bigger picture when it comes to protecting natural resources andwatersheds.
Val Warmington is preparing to submit a resol ution to the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG) calling for a greaterdegree of monitoring and investigation into the practices surroundingforestry management and community watersheds.
Currently, the British Columbia government is conducting a review of the province’s professional reliance model — to be complete by thespring of 2018 — to ensure the “highest professional, technical andethical standards are being applied” to resource management in B.C.
And it is in that professional reliance model that the province hasbeen dropping the ball, said Warmington.
“One of the things we are realizing is that while the forestry industry may be following all of the rules, the rules themselves may not be really adequate to ensure the health of our watersheds,” she said
“In particular, under professional reliance we are not getting that long-term monitoring of changes in the watershed.”
The monitoring that goes on in the forestry industry is very specific, she said, and it relates almost solely to erosion on the roads they are cutting in. But nobody is really cracking the bigger picture, Warmington noted.
“Sometimes in watersheds the impacts may not be seen locally but they may have impacts within the larger watershed, and we are concerned that isn’t being looked at and when you are focused on professional reliance you are really looking at the effects of that little piece of work without looking at the bigger picture,” she said.
“So we are really hoping they bring back that larger oversight.”
Toward that end, Warmington is drafting a late resolution — with council’s initial support — to AKBLG regarding the management of public lands and natural resources and the government’s reliance on professional companies for advice.
Reliance on the professional sector is a longstanding practice within the province, and over the past decade has increased in response to the government’s regulatory reform initiatives.
But since 2013 the Environmental Appeal board, the Forest Practices board, the Office of Auditor General and office of the Ombudsperson
have highlighted the need for adequate oversight of qualified professionals in providing independent, objective advice to government regulators, said Warmington.
“There is increasing public concern relating to specific instances of decision making based on professional reliance,” she said.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, George Heyman, said the review of the professional reliance model was a top priorityfor the province because people must be assured that “we have a strong, transparent process in place that upholds the highest environmental standards,” Heyman said.
The review will assess the current legislation governing qualified professionals (QPs) in the natural resource sector, and the role their professional associations play in upholding the public interest.
Additionally, the review will look at other jurisdictions to identify best practices and assess whether those practices are being used by QPs doing work on government’s behalf.
Finally, the review will make recommendations regarding resource decisions made by government, conditions governing the involvement of QPs in those decisions and the appropriate level of government oversight to assure the public their interests are protected.
Engagement with those who use QPs in both government and the private sector, as well as stakeholders and representatives of the public,will also be part of the review.
A final report is expected to be completed by spring 2018 with recommendations to inform the following:
- Professional reliance use in the natural resource sector and in-house capacity;
- Government oversight of QPs;
- and development of an implementation plan with a timeline for tangible steps to increase public trust in government decisions.
The Professional Reliance Review Terms of Reference will be posted at: engage.gov.bc.ca