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Old 6th November 2009, 08:36
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Default British Columbia Enjoys River Day Celebrations

By Barry Penner, Minister of Environment. B.C.

On Sunday, September 27, people across British Columbia province celebrated the fifth annual World Rivers Day.

Every year hundreds of British Columbians head out to celebrate and enjoy our world-class rivers, from the mighty Fraser to the beautiful Columbia, to the home of the big steelhead in the Skeena.

We can all be proud that it was BC Rivers Day that inspired the worldwide celebration. The man behind our own rivers day is Mark Angelo, Rivers Chair of the Outdoor Recreation Council. Some 75,000 people in B.C. take part in BC Rivers Day every year, so it’s no wonder the world noticed and founded World Rivers Day. Both celebrate waterways, and look to increase public awareness about our rivers, and what we can do to protect them and ensure they remain healthy for our fish, wildlife and communities.

A few months ago, Mark Angelo joined me at McGillivray Slough along the Fraser River to officially recognize our government’s designation of 915 hectares of fish and wildlife habitat located west of Chilliwack as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA). A further 71 hectares in south Surrey was also designated as a WMA. Officially known as the Bert Brink and Serpentine, their new status under the Wildlife Act provides the Ministry of Environment additional legal and regulatory tools to ensure effective management of the sites.

Bert Brink is named in memory of Dr. Vernon (Bert) Brink, a prominent UBC agricultural scientist and a life-long conservationist who possessed a vast love and knowledge of the outdoors. Dr. Brink received many awards throughout his distinguished career, including the Order of Canada and Order of British Columbia. Bert Brink WMA was first recognized as an important area for wildlife in the 1920s, when a game reserve was established to protect a heron colony and other wildlife values.

Early on, our government recognized the need to better protect and enhance our rivers and wetlands, and restore fish habitat. That’s why we tripled the Living Rivers Trust Fund in May 2006, to $21 million.

After tripling the Living Rivers Trust, we partnered with the Government of Canada for a combined total of $20 million to be used in a collaborative effort to restore and maintain healthy and diverse salmon populations in the Fraser River watershed. Called the Fraser Basin Initiative, the combined funds have helped conserve and improve fish and wildlife habitat, especially on one of Canada’s most important rivers.

Under a five-year commitment, the Initiative is jointly managed by the Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Fraser Basin Council. Partners, including community groups, First Nations and not-for-profit organizations, received funding to implement approved recovery, conservation, science and public awareness projects that deliver long-term, tangible benefits for salmon populations and critical habitats.

On the south coast, the BC Conservation Foundation is delivering the Living Rivers – Georgia Basin/Vancouver Island program with approximately $6 million from the Living Rivers Trust Fund and over $9 million from partner organizations. Focussing on water conservation, fish habitat restoration and First Nation capacity-building through hands-on project involvement, the programs helps ensure future water security for aquatic ecosystems and coastal communities in the face of climate change.

In summary, I thank British Columbians for remaining at the forefront of river conservation, and encourage everyone to celebrate this World and B.C. Rivers Day!

Barry Penner, Minister of Environment. B.C.
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