The Peace Dividend: First study of its kind quantifies enormous natural wealth in B.C.’s threatened Peace Region
For immediate release Wednesday July 30, 2014
VANCOUVER — The economic benefits of keeping the Peace River region’s remaining farmland and nature intact are enormous, according to a new report from the David Suzuki Foundation. These ecosystems play a critical role in providing clean air, clean water, habitat for wildlife and many other ecological benefits that sustain the health and well-being of local residents, and contribute to the cultural and traditional ways of First Nations.
The Peace region of northeastern British Columbia is a major hotspot of resource and energy development in Canada, including hydroelectric power generation, mining, fracking, logging and planned natural gas pipelines and other infrastructure.
The study found that ecological services provided by farmland and nature in the Peace River Watershed are conservatively worth an estimated $7.9 billion to $8.6 billion a year.
The study assessed the economic values of the ecological benefits provided by forests, fields, wetlands, farmland, waterways and other ecosystems in the B.C. portion of the watershed, stretching over a 5.6-million-hectare area of the province. These benefits are referred to as “ecosystem services” by scientists and include water supply, air filtration, flood and erosion control, habitat for wildlife and agricultural pollinators, carbon storage and other benefits.
The total annual value for carbon stored in the forests, wetlands and grasslands of the Peace River Watershed was estimated at $6.7 billion to $7.4 billion per year, and the total value for other ecosystem services was estimated at $1.2 billion per year in economic benefits. Carbon storage, carbon sequestration and the habitat value of wetlands accounted for the greatest ecological value per hectare in the watershed.
“Even though the cumulative effects of resource development have affected more than 60 per cent of the Peace River Watershed, our study shows that remaining farmland and natural areas have an incredible ability to generate natural wealth,” said the David Suzuki Foundation’s Faisal Moola.
“We’re concerned because the strain on the Peace River Watershed’s farmland and natural ecosystems will only increase with the B.C. government’s plan for increased oil and gas development, including liquefied natural gas, as well as large infrastructure projects such as the proposed Site C Dam,” he continued.
The recent final report by the provincial-federal Site C Joint Review Panel did not find in favour of or against the multi-billion-dollar Site C project but did raise concerns that the dam would have significant cumulative environmental and social impacts, including contributing to the further degradation of sensitive ecosystems and wildlife habitat that support local First Nations.
“This study confirms what we have known for generations. Our Dane_Zaa people have been blessed with forests, rushing rivers and rolling grasslands that have sustained our communities for thousands of years,” said Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nation. “However, the cumulative effects of industrial development in our territories have been massive and can’t be mitigated. They’ve had an enormous impact on our treaty rights as First Nations people.”
Today’s study is a follow-up to an earlier satellite analysis of the land-use impacts of industrial development in the Peace River Watershed by Global Forest Watch Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation. It found the region is under unprecedented development pressure, and little protected habitat has been set aside for wildlife and other ecological values. The Peace River Watershed already has 16,267 oil and gas well sites and 8,517 petroleum and natural gas facilities and tens of thousands of kilometres of logging roads, seismic lines and pipelines. The B.C. government's LNG and Site C plans would intensify this industrial footprint.
“We hope this report encourages discussion about how natural areas and farmland in B.C.’s irreplaceable Peace Region are valued — and undervalued — when decisions are made that could destroy the region’s natural wealth. The Site C dam would flood thousands of hectares of farmland and sensitive ecosystems. We hope the information in our study will be used by government to protect and restore the region’s ecological integrity and ensure a sustainable future,” Moola said.
For information, contact:
Dr. Faisal Moola, PhD
Director General, Ontario and Northern Canada: (647) 993-5788