Harold Steves needs no introduction to people in Metro Vancouver. He is one of the longest serving city councillors in Canada, serving with the City of Richmond. Mr. Steves was first elected in 1969, then served as an elected MLA in the Provincial government, then returned to Richmond Council in 1977 where he’s been bringing to the forefront the importance of agriculture, sustainability, and respect of the existing natural environments.
Mr. Steves started one of the first pollution awareness societies in Canada, was a founding member of the Agricultural Land Reserve (he drafted the original motion too) in 1973. The Steves family still farm the homestead property in Richmond. His family arrived here over 150 years ago, and operated the first seed company in British Columbia and brought in the first holstein cattle. That little town of Steveston is named after this family.
But as Maria Rantanen reports in Richmond News Mr. Steves says the time is now to understand the importance of the Fraser River estuary where Richmond and Delta are seated upon, and finally develop at the provincial level a coastal zone act for all estuaries across the province.
In fact Mr. Steves had introduced a private member’s bill on this decades ago in the provincial legislature while he was an MLA..
“The Fraser River estuary is home to half of B.C.’s population but only 30 per cent of its natural habitat is currently intact, according to a recent study by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.Threats to the estuary include pollution, resource exploitation, dredging and diking, intense farming, sprawl, climate change and future large-scale industrial development.”
I have already written about the UBC Scientific Team study that concluded over one hundred species would become extinct within 25 years in this area if an overall governance model was not introduced for the Fraser River estuary.
While river deltas and estuaries are recognized as important, they have not been clearly identified in legislation. There’s a messy jurisdiction for estuaries, that has made co-ordinated planning and regulation difficult and stressful.
The federal government manages the marine environment and the province regulates the foreshore and lands. FREMP ( Fraser River Estuary Management Planning Group) was such an overall governance body but was dissolved in 2013 by the Harper federal government as a federal cost-cutting measure. It was expected to be replaced.
The study released this summer from the Raincoast Conservation Foundation a non-profit scientific group also calls for a co-ordinating body to manage industrial pressures and habitat protection in the Fraser River estuary. Of course it was Mr. Steves that put forward a motion at Richmond City Council to ask the Province for a co-ordinated coastal “strategy and law” to protect the estuary, coastal reaches and habitat.
Biologist Dave Scott sums up the rationale:
“Experts are pessimistic about the resiliency of species and their ecosystem in the Fraser with the status quo. What’s needed is an examination the state of development in each ecosystem, On the Fraser, we really need to decide, are we going to continue with the status quo of development and lose these species or are we going to turn the tide and start to head in a positive direction. It’s really time to focus on protecting and restoring that ecosystem.”