Provincial Systems Fail to Protect Threatened Species

VICTORIA – The Forest Practices Board has found that there is a systemic failure in government policy to protect threatened species such as marbled murrelets on crown forest lands.

The findings were released as the close of a board investigation of a 1999 complaint concerning logging approvals in the Brand Valley on south-western Vancouver Island, an area which contains prime marbled murrelet habitat. The original complaint report was released in November 2001 and recommended that the provincial government act promptly to complete detailed land-use planning and establish wildlife habitat areas for threatened and endangered species.

“This is just one example of a recurring breakdown in the habitat conservation system, which begins with a lack of clear targets set by government for population levels of threatened species such as marbled murrelets,” said board chair Bruce Fraser. “Furthermore, ministries have limited resources for timely completion of land-use plans on the landscape level, which is needed to provide guidance to resource managers and forest companies for conservation objectives in their operating areas. Many companies are doing valuable work on habitat assessments but these efforts require a specific government objective for murrelet conservation to be truly effective.

“Government has imposed a one per cent timber supply constraint on the creation of wildlife habitat areas, which are key tools for preserving murrelet habitat . This leads agencies and forest companies to propose habitat areas which are driven by arbitrary policy targets, instead of relying on science-based assessments of wildlife habitat needs. It would be more logical to use science to determine the habitat needs of species first, and then government can decide what impact on other sectors it is willing to accept to protect wildlife habitat.”

In February 2005, after discussions with government officials, the board found the ministries of Water, Land and Air Protection and Sustainable Resource Management had not acted effectively to protect murrelet habitat. Planning remains incomplete in the Brand Valley; current planning efforts are being led by industry rather than government, and no wildlife habitat areas have been approved to date.

“The end result is that threatened species such as the marbled murrelet are falling through the cracks, with logging continuing in sensitive areas under plans approved by government agencies,” said Fraser. “This situation will continue unless government sets a clear objective for conservation of endangered and threatened species, provides sufficient funding to resource ministries for planning and enforcement, and reviews the one per cent timber supply cap on wildlife habitat areas.”

Marbled murrelets are small seabirds that live along the Pacific coast of North America which nest in old-growth forests within 50 kilometres of the ocean. The board has published several reports on marbled murrelets and other species at risk such as the mountain caribou, which raise similar concerns to those in the Brand Valley investigation. For more information, visit the board’s website at

The Forest Practices Board is an independent public watchdog that reports to the public about compliance with the Forest Practices Code and the achievement of its intent. The board’s mandate has been retained under the new Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA). The board’s main roles under FRPA are:

  • Auditing forest practices of government and licence holders on public lands.
  • Auditing government enforcement of FRPA.
  • Investigating public complaints.
  • Undertaking special investigations of forestry issues.
  • Participating in administrative appeals.
  • Providing reports on board activities, findings and recommendations.


Erik Kaye

Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250-356-1586 or 1-800-994-5899

March 3, 2005