For Immediate Release – September 17, 2020


$27 million investment in BC watershed jobs will make our province stronger, healthier and more secure


VICTORIA (traditional territory of the Lekwungen people) – In the face of record low salmon returns on the Fraser, wildfire, drought, erosion, water quality issues and the effects of climate change on our water today the B.C. government announced an investment of $27 million in watershed initiatives and wetland projects across the province. This is a much needed first step in protecting our watersheds, and the fish, wildlife and people who rely on them, while putting people back to work to accelerate our economic recovery.


Coree Tull, co-chair of the Watershed Security Coalition acknowledged the significance of today’s investment in watershed security to support those most heavily impacted by COVID-19.


“This is a critical investment in both BC’s watershed security and in our economic recovery, said Tull. “Several studies show that a $1 million investment in watershed restoration can create between 13 and 32 jobs and $2.2 and $3.4 million in economic activity. Watershed restoration will put people to work in a COVID-safe manner, while both improving the health or our watersheds and stimulating our economy.”


British Columbia’s watersheds are facing ever-increasing pressures with climate change destabilizing freshwater sources, adding droughts, fires and floods to the existing threats of contamination and cumulative impacts on the land. In particular, these impacts are having profound consequences for BC’s indigenous communities.


“Water is sacred, alive and the lifeblood of First Nations’ traditional territories. Access to healthy freshwater is essential to the continued survival of fish and other aquatic species, and to the protection of Aboriginal Title and Rights and Treaty Rights” said Hugh Braker, president of the First Nations Fisheries Council. “This investment in watershed security is a critical opportunity to enable communities to withstand and avoid future crises.”


First Nations, local governments, and community organizations across BC are already taking responsibility to triage water problems but they lack the necessary resources to meet the scale of the challenges facing our watersheds.


“We work with literally hundreds of local groups and stewards – and we hear from them  that water is critical in their communities, but insufficient resources are available to conserve or restore this asset,” said Neil Fletcher, Manager of Conservation Stewardship with B.C. Wildlife Federation. “Directing stimulus dollars towards enhancement of our watersheds will serve as a win-win. We can get people back to work and create more vibrant and healthy waterways that can better service our communities, both wildlife and people benefit”.


While the Watershed Coalition is pleased with today’s announcement, Tull emphasizes the importance of a long-term funding investment in BC’s watershed security.


“Investment in our watersheds will generate thousands of good long-term jobs and ensure British Columbians have access to safe, clean, flowing water, said Tull. “This investment can be supported through a dedicated Watershed Security Fund supported by the water rentals paid by the largest commercial and industrial users of freshwater.”


“We commend the Province on this important first step and look forward to working with the provincial government to ensure generations of British Columbians continue to enjoy the benefits of our amazing watersheds.”




About the BC Watershed Security Coalition:


The BC Watershed Security Coalition is a non-partisan, diverse coalition of 27 organizations representing 250,000 British Columbians from all walks of life. We have come together out of the recognition that, in every region of this province, healthy watersheds are fundamental to human health, security, prosperity and reconciliation.


The core members of the BC Watershed Security Coalition include: BC Wildlife Federation, BC Outdoor Recreation Council, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Canadian Freshwater Alliance, Watersheds BC, Rivershed Society of BC, BC Freshwater legacy Initiative, POLIS Water Sustainability Project, and Pacific Salmon Foundation.


To learn more about the coalition visit:


For media inquiries, please contact:

Coree Tull

Opinion: Recent report from International Institute for Sustainable Development shows that natural infrastructure, like forests and wetlands, provides same services at half the cost of built infrastructure.

It’s a time of dramatic contrast for water in B.C. In the summer, there wasn’t enough; many areas went without rain for weeks on end. The result was widespread drought and intense forest fires that cost lives and livelihoods. A month’s worth of rain recently fell in a single day in southwestern B.C., resulting in catastrophic flooding.

And storms in the form of atmospheric rivers continued to rain on the province. Many people have still not returned to their homes, animals have drowned in lakes that were once fields and critical supplies were cut off as roads fell into rivers.

To effectively bolster our strength and resilience for this new reality, it’s important to understand that B.C.’s catastrophic flooding has two main causes. One cause is the extremely heavy rain and/or melting snow over a very short time, which is becoming more common with a warming climate. The second cause, which gets far less air time, is the damage that’s been done to our watersheds through mismanagement and a failure to understand what Indigenous Peoples have always known — if we take care of our watersheds, they take care of us.

While attention is quickly shifting to rebuilding larger dikes and bigger pumps, it’s essential that governments work together to also rebuild our natural defences — what experts call “watershed security.” Watershed security is about recognizing the critical services that healthy, functioning watersheds provide for our communities — from drinking water and food security, to flood and drought protection.A healthy watershed provides a natural safeguard against climate chaos: forests, wetlands and riverbanks act like sponges, slowing absorbing rain and snow melt, letting it seep into the ground over time. This groundwater is then released into streams and rivers weeks or months later, which is how rivers keep flowing in dry summers.
The areas hit worst by last week’s floods are, not surprisingly, areas of major forest and wetland destruction: 70 per cent of wetlands have disappeared in the lower Fraser Valley and on Vancouver Island. The hillsides surrounding Merritt and Princeton, devastated by the floods, have been heavily logged in the last 30 years. They were also hit hard by this year’s forest fires.A recent report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development shows that natural infrastructure, like forests and wetlands, provides the same services at half the cost of built infrastructure. The Municipal Natural Assets Initiative shows how these kinds of investments save communities tens-of-millions-of-dollars.
Governments will need to spend billions to support flood recovery. The immediate priority is getting people back into their homes and their livelihoods back on track. But as the rebuilding work begins, investments in healthy and resilient watersheds must be prioritized in this spending.Three key actions are needed:• A portion of recovery funds should be allocated to strengthening natural defences. The B.C. government has committed to create a provincial Watershed Security Fund, and the need to deliver on that promise is urgent. On Nov. 30, the First Nations Leadership Council publicly called on the provincial government to prioritize the investment of watershed resiliency across B.C. through the fund.
• The province must work in partnership with Indigenous Nations and local governments to develop local watershed authorities that can co-ordinate flood mapping, monitoring, and lead watershed planning and management.• And major industry players should be required to pay for the costs of their impacts on watersheds. Taxpayers shouldn’t be cleaning up after multinational companies.Our communities, our homes and the places we love will be stronger, more resilient and more livable if we invest in our watershed security today.
Coree Tull is co-chair of the B.C. Watershed Security Coalition. Dave Zehnder is a rancher and program developer at Farmland Advantage.

Opinion: B.C. government takes bold, positive step with watersheds initiative

The new B.C. Healthy Watersheds Initiative will fund more than 60 projects and employ more than 750 people in 2021. We hope the province will commit to continued healthy watersheds funding in this year’s budget

As we begin to glimpse light at the end of this long, dark COVID tunnel, a few unexpected bright spots have emerged.
Instinctively, we all understand that clean, fresh water is the foundation of our health. With last week’s announcement of B.C.’s new Healthy Watersheds Initiative, the B.C. government has taken an important first step toward securing this foundation.

Yet a century of reckless resource extraction has left its mark. Too many of our watersheds have become contaminated and overexploited, wild salmon habitat has been degraded, natural flows have been diverted and blocked, and the clean, fresh water we all depend on has been polluted by run-off and industrial waste.

With the climate crisis threatening to further disrupt our critical fresh water systems, leading to droughts, fires and floods, now is the time to act with urgency and clear commitment, and we are encouraged by this government’s bold direction to secure and restore B.C.’s fresh water sources.

Following the 2020 provincial election, Premier John Horgan instructed his ministers to make good on their election promises to create a new B.C. watershed security strategy, backed by a B.C. watershed security fund. These commitments have landed in the mandates of Environment Minister George Heyman, Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations Nathan Cullen and Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Aquaculture Fin Donnelly, all of whom have shown themselves to be real water champions.

To begin moving from promises to action, one week ago, as part of its Stronger B.C. Economic Recovery Plan, the B.C. government announced the launch of the new B.C. Healthy Watersheds Initiative. The initiative will fund more than 60 projects and employ more than 750 people across B.C. in 2021.The first wave of projects includes both First Nations-led and on-the-ground partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities — real examples of reconciliation in action that benefit everyone. These projects are job creators that leverage the skills of a diverse cross-section of British Columbians, from traditional resource workers to people who’ve been hardest hit by COVID, like women, youth and service-sector workers. These projects are generating employment opportunities while restoring wetlands, training workers while improving salmon habitat and boosting local economies while making our communities more livable, resilient and sustainable.
This may, finally, mark a turning point for the health of B.C.’s critical watersheds. We hope the government will continue this work with a commitment to continued Healthy Watersheds Initiative funding in B.C.’s 2021 budget.Because it isn’t just about watersheds. COVID has taught us many things, including the importance of home and why building the kinds of strong, healthy and prosperous communities where people look after one another is so important. The growing polarization of our neighbours to the south stands as a stark warning.But water unites us like little else, and the Healthy Watersheds Initiative projects bring people together in partnership to secure and restore their local fresh water sources.

We encourage Premier Horgan to leverage the positive momentum created through the Healthy Watersheds Initiative into a permanent commitment to the health of B.C.’s watersheds by establishing the promised B.C. watershed security fund.

It isn’t just about now. Our watersheds face serious and growing challenges, and a changing climate means the longer we wait the harder it will be to secure and restore B.C.’s water.

We ask the B.C. government to act with urgency, resolve and clarity of purpose to secure and restore our fresh water sources. And we ask all British Columbians to join with us to help build a legacy of healthy watersheds we can be proud to hand down to our kids and grandkids.



Aaron Sumexheltza is former chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band, Neil Fletcher is director of conservation stewardship with the B.C. Wildlife Federation and Coree Tull is co-director of the Canadian Freshwater Alliance.