Like the rainforest, Salish Sea deserves protection

Comment: Like the rainforest, Salish Sea deserves protection

Laurie Gourlay / Times Colonist

November 19, 2016 12:24 AM

http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-like-the-rainforest-salish-sea-deserves-protection-1.2937844

As I write this, the Queen and Premier Christy Clark are in Buckingham Palace honouring the Great Bear Rainforest, recognizing its global importance within the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy.

Environmentalist that I am, an admirer of this important legacy, I can’t help but wonder whether I will ever see this gift to the world, ever gaze upon the intertwining ecosystems where the spirit bear walks among the wild creatures and great forests of the world.

And if truth be told, I am envious, wishing for just such economic and environmental balance right here where I live, on the edge of the Salish Sea. Here, where some eight million people live and 3,000 species co-exist in the deep waters, channels and estuaries from Campbell River to Puget Sound.

I am pleased to know that mountain peaks and far-off lands are protected in B.C.’s sparsely populated coast, and I understand the need to retain representative samples of habitat and restorative pockets of untrammelled nature. I just don’t expect to go to those places very often, to see or experience this global treasure that’s the size of Ireland and which “all British Columbians have a stake in protecting.”

Forgive me, but I don’t understand why we can’t have such ecosystem-based management of our natural resources and world-class environment right here in our backyard, where the most benefits for the most people can be had at the least cost.

I’m not dissing the Queen’s recognition, nor taking issue with the efforts of all those who have worked so hard to see the Great Bear Rainforest honoured and protected. Don’t get me wrong.

I am asking why we can’t have the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy recognize the Salish Sea, the marine equivalent of the Great Bear Rainforest. The forests of the world need saving, no doubt, but so, too, do the world’s oceans need such attention and protection. Now more than ever, if we’re to believe the growing international call to recognize the challenges they face, and the care and investment needed to restore the waters of our blue planet.

Which brings me to the edge of our unique inner sea, which many rare and endangered species still call home, where the yachts of the rich and privileged mingle with the fishing boats and outboard-motor crowd. Where we all have a chance to walk the shores of a relatively healthy ecosystem, and where the promise of a global economic and environmental treasure hangs in the balance of decisions we’ll make over the next few years.

Given this chance to help determine our common future, I choose the Salish Sea as a world heritage site of such significance and importance as deserving of the recognition and protections bestowed upon the Great Bear Rainforest.

Our window on the Pacific Ocean, with all its historical, cultural and natural heritage should be healthy and protected, for the benefit of all.

Wondrous vistas and unpolluted waters should be the inheritance we leave. A wealthy and productive marine ecosystem should be our economic bottom line, where marine mammals, fish, kelp forests and clambeds thrive. We should expect to go down to the sea for an afternoon’s outing and be able to show family and visitors all the beauty and treasures that our ocean has to give. All our present and future needs can be met with the proper care and planning.

Canada’s governor general should welcome the royal family back to our shores, speak to the pride Canadians have for our environment, and formally recognize and protect the West Coast beauty, biodiversity and heritage embodied in the Salish Sea.

If we can find the will to recognize the Great Bear Rainforest, and the Queen can use her position to underline the importance of all the great forests of the world, then surely we can find a way to protect the world-class waters of the Salish Sea.

We all have a stake in our coast’s future. Let’s keep the Salish Sea healthy and protected forever, a gift to the world as Canada turns 150 years old. Let’s leave a legacy that our children and theirs will be proud of.

Laurie Gourlay is interim director of the Salish Sea Trust.

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·       Comment: Like the rainforest, Salish Sea deserves protection

Comment: Like the rainforest, Salish Sea deserves protection

Times Colonist

And if truth be told, I am envious, wishing for just such economic and environmental balance right here where I live, on the edge of the Salish Sea.