From the raincoast to the boreal, British Columbia is the land of evergreen forests. Towering conifers anchored to intact slopes create the watershed, the basic unit of our landscape. Our watersheds used to soak up rains during the heaviest of storms and let streams flow in the toughest droughts. We are learning the hard way that valuing forests for nothing but their logs and standing idly by while the atmosphere fills with carbon has consequences; not just for people, but for fish and wildlife as well. We are fighting to ensure our governments recognize all the benefits of intact watersheds and provide the support necessary for communities to strengthen their watersheds in the face of increasing floods, fires and droughts.
If you ask someone what a watershed is, they can’t always paint a clear picture. But nobody is confused when their lips crack, their eyes dry out, or floods carry away their home. We can’t live without water, but too much can be just as scary. Two years ago, we created CodeBlueBC to share the stories of our watersheds. Now 30,000 British Columbians are a part of an online community adding energy and momentum to watershed restoration projects across the province, like the one at Hooge Creek.
From 2017 to 2020, the Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition spearheaded a project to restore the Vedder River floodplain. Their work in the Hooge and Peach Creek watersheds restored and enhanced salmon habitat by creating new rearing channels and stabilizing streamside areas. During the fall of 2021, when atmospheric rivers poured down on the Fraser Valley, this creek and wetland stood its ground. Juvenile salmon found refuge, and the habitat survived intact to welcome next season’s spawners. The restored wetland soaked up excess stormwater, mitigating the downstream impact of flooding.
When raging rivers sweep homes away or when salmon suffocate in dry creek beds, decision-makers can see why healthy, intact watersheds are so important. The rest of the time, CodeBlue is there to remind ‘resource-managers’ that their jobs involve more than extracting logs, electricity, and water for irrigation from watersheds for the benefit of large corporations. Our digital tools delivered:
- 1,196 citizen emails halting the destruction of Strawberry Island (sensitive fish habitat in the Heart of the Fraser);
- 600 citizen letters successfully calling on the Minister of Forests to halt logging in Vernon’s Duteau Creek watershed;
- 430 citizen emails calling on Metro Vancouver and the City of Coquitlam to address sewage overflows that pollute salmon-bearing Stoney Creek; and
- stories about our watersheds to over 836,500 Facebook accounts.
In the fight for better watershed security, the Water For Fish campaign realizes the physical is just as important as the digital. In 2022 we met dozens of senior government officials in person and were part of a collective effort called the BC Watershed Security Coalition that pushed the province to invest another $30 million into B.C.’s watersheds this year, building on the previous $27 million Healthy Watersheds Initiative that we also helped secure. To date, over 41 watershed-related projects have been completed, improving habitat connectivity and flow for salmon, improving drinking water source protection for communities, and advancing co-management of watersheds with First Nations, local governments, and more.
We’ll have to keep up the fight for lasting watershed security.
Opposing us are an army of lobbyists from water bottling, forestry and fracking companies who will do anything in their power to stop us. The plan for 2023 is to keep the pressure on, calling out water wasters and polluters, demanding the B.C. government keep their promise to create a permanent B.C. watershed security fund and include the voices of everyday people in the decision-making process. We are building CodeBlue BC into a force that will make government and industry think twice before degrading our watersheds. Join us at www.codebluebc.ca/addyourvoice