British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposia

Unique ecological considerations - Ecological Reserves Program 2009

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Proceedings of the 1st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 181 UNIQUE ECOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS ECOLOGICAL RESERVES PROGRAM Bristol Foster Ministry of the Environment March 18, 1977 Proceedings of the 1st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 183 ECOLOGICAL RESERVES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY In the mid 1960's scientists in all parts of Canada started projects to examine the ecological factors of biology as an outgrowth of the International Biological Programme, a worldwide endeavour involving dozens of nations.  Among the many projects initiated by the I.E.P. was a programme for the conservation of carefully selected terrestrial ecosystems.  In 1968 the Government of British Columbia agreed to form a B.C. Ecological Reserves Committee to advise on the selection of potential reserve sites.  A year later, the government formally embarked on setting aside ecological reserves under the Land Act. Then in 1971 the Legislature gave approval to the Ecological Reserves Act. British Columbia became the first province in Canada to formalize and give permanent status to ecological reserves.  Quebec, the second to do so, established its Act in 1974. British Columbia now has 77 reserves varying from 1.5 to 82,000 acres, averaging 2,644 acres and totalling almost 200,000 acres. KINDS OF ECOLOGICAL RESERVES Basically the purpose of the Act is to reserve Crown land for ecological purposes, including: (a) areas suitable for scientific research and educational purposes associated with studies in productivity and other aspects of the natural environment. (b) areas which are representative of natural ecosystems. Proceedings of the 1st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 184 (c) areas that serve as examples of ecosystems that have been modified by man, such as after mining, and offer an opportunity to study the recovery of the natural ecosystem from such modification.  (d) areas in which rare or endangered native plants or animals may be preserved in their natural habitat. (e) areas that contain unique and rare examples of botanical, zoological or geological phenomena. Areas having potential for one or more of these purposes are proposed by members of the Ecological Reserves Committee, Naturalist Clubs and the concerned public.  The proposals are screened through the Committee and relevant Government Departments to resolve any resource conflicts.  Areas proposed for their scenic or recreational values are transferred to the Parks Branch. Areas agreed upon by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council are sub- sequently published in the British Columbia Gazette.  Protection from any activity which would disturb the natural balance is provided for under the Ecological Reserves Act. While the Act stipulates that only Crown land may be made into an ecological reserve, funds are available for the Crown to purchase private property thereby allowing private lands to become a reserve. PURPOSE OF ECOLOGICAL RESERVES 1.  Permanent outdoor research laboratories, available to scientists once a permit is granted.  Ecological reserves must be permanent to allow the continuity of research over decades or even centuries which is needed to unravel some of the basic ecological processes.  Intensive short termed research is no alternative. We cannot predict the sort of questions that will be asked of our ecological reserves in 10 or 100 years. Proceedings of the 1st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 185 2. Genetic banks - a nature museum function.  As man continues to modify the surface of the earth, species of plants and animals may become extinct before they are even known to science (mites and soil nematodes for example).  Distinctive genepools are an irreplaceable resource.  Samples of both rare species and locally adapted common forms must be preserved. 3. Benchmark areas, against which man's modification of most of the province can be measured.  Without such natural "control" areas it would be much more difficult to determine man's impact on the environment and how to lessen it. 4. Outdoor classroom for groups of students under permit to learn natural processes.  ECOLOGICAL RESERVES AND PARKS Parks are established so people can enjoy recreation in a natural setting. Ecological reserves are established for scientific and outdoor class- room purposes.  Casual non-consumptive, non-motorized uses such as hiking, photography, a wilderness experience, bird watching, etc., is allowed on all reserves without a permit at present.  Some particular- ly delicate reserves might be closed to the public in future. From the point of view of the scientist there are two main reasons why ecological reserves are valued over parks: their permanence and scientific use are more clearly established, and being a part of an international program they will attract researchers from afar. While parks and ecological reserves serve different purposes, together they provide a full range of opportunities for man to experience and learn from the natural world. Proceedings of the 1st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1977. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 186 BENEFITS FROM ECOLOGICAL RESERVES Everybody benefits directly or indirectly.  Undisturbed natural areas will yield a wealth of knowledge through their function as outdoor laboratories and classrooms.  Among those who will benefit from the existence of ecological reserves are natural history societies, students and educators, foresters, limnologists, zoologists, botanists, soil scientists, biochemists, geologists, microclitnatologists and many other resource experts. Future generations will benefit from the preservation and protection of ecological reserves.  While their value cannot be measured in economic terms, their wealth to future citizens will lie in their outstanding natural qualities and rarity.  As time passes and human alteration of the environment continues, the very real scientific value of unaltered sites is certain to increase.

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