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Watershed, wetland projects funded by the province

George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, speaks at the Canadian Bioeconomy Conference and Exhibition in Prince George Friday. Bill Phillips photo
George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy

A new economic recovery investment will create 750 jobs to restore watersheds and wetlands throughout the province.

Through StrongerBC: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan, $27 million have been dedicated to about 70 watershed and wetland initiatives to ensure B.C.’s water stays healthy and resilient in a changing climate.

“Investing in watersheds is vital to the continued health of our land and rivers by ensuring our soil is protected and that our fish populations remain healthy,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in a news release. “Through Nation-to-Nation consultation, we’re moving forward together on watershed rehabilitation and protection initiatives across the province that support people and build a cleaner, more sustainable future.”

Scheduled for completion by December 2021, the projects will take place in or near rural, urban and Indigenous communities hit hard by COVID-19. The projects include:

* supporting the recovery of healthy and abundant fish stocks by restoring spawning and rearing habitats and improving fish passage in critical areas;

* strengthening natural carbon sinks by restoring wetlands throughout the province;

* restoring watersheds to improve the ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change; and

* providing natural flood management and prevention by restoring riparian areas and stabilizing riverbanks.

The projects were identified by Watersheds BC in collaboration with partners throughout the province. Many projects are either being led by or implemented in partnership with Indigenous communities.

“Dła̱xsiwè (Klux-see-we) is an origin and historic village site for Kwakiuł. Today, it is the location of our campground and resort, and is regularly used for cultural purposes, including healing and ceremony,” said Sherri Labour, lands and resources manager for the Kwakiutl First Nation. “The lower reaches of Dła̱xsiwè have been severely impacted by forestry and other development, and, as a result, are extremely unstable. This funding will address emergency ocean incursion and erosion issues that have the potential to destroy the critical and unique saltwater marsh habitat that this site represents.”

This initiative is part of B.C.’s $10-billion COVID-19 response, which includes StrongerBC – a plan that protects people’s health and livelihoods while supporting businesses and communities.

“Our StrongerBC plan is creating jobs and helping communities in all regions of the province recover from the pandemic,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “These projects are vital, not only because they provide good-paying jobs to help people emerge from the pandemic on a stronger footing, but because they also strengthen our crucial watersheds and wetlands for future generations.”

To deliver the funding and manage the projects, the Province has partnered with the Real Estate Foundation of BC (REFBC) to create the Healthy Watersheds Initiative. REFBC is a philanthropic organization working to support land use and real estate practices that contribute to thriving, resilient communities and natural environments.

“Through the Healthy Watersheds Initiative, we have an opportunity to demonstrate the economic, ecological, cultural and community benefits that come from investing in B.C.’s watersheds,” said Mark Gifford, CEO, REFBC. “For decades, the foundation has supported research, conservation and education on freshwater health. This investment builds on this commitment, providing critical support for a green and blue economic recovery.”

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