Old Growth Forest & Marbled Murrelet Habitat Protected

The Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) is a small seabird that nests in mossy platforms on large branches of old-growth trees. The murrelet is listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). Its nests and eggs are legally protected under B.C.’s Wildlife Act, the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act and SARA.

Though murrelets and their habitat are protected by law, indiscriminate logging of old growth forests over the last 60 years has caused a steady decline in their range and population numbers.

In 2014, the SCCA formally nominated 50 areas of Marbled Murrelet nesting habitat for protection as Wildlife Habitat Area (WHA) in the Sunshine Coast Natural Resource (SCNRD).

In early 2018, the BC Government adopted the Canadian Marbled Murrelet Recovery Team’s Federal recovery strategy and recommended recovery objectives to maintain minimum habitat thresholds for the murrelets on provincially managed Crown land. The SCCA made a submission to the Implementation Planning process and published a briefing note for advocates.

Of our original 50 nominations, 30 were designated as WHA in 2018. The BC Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) added another 16 WHA nominations to our 30 proposals, which brought the total proposed area for protection up to 6,000 hectares. Of this area, 3,211hectares were formally protected as WHA under the Forest and Range Practice Act (FRPA).

That year, the province also committed to establishing a new “Land Use Order Regulation” (GAR Order) under the Land Act in order to achieve the level of habitat protection needed to comply with the recovery plan. In September 2020, the province issued the draft Order. We reviewed and commented on the draft.

On December 2, 2021, the Order to achieve minimum thresholds for marbled murrelet habitat retention on BC Crown land was finally established. In the SCNRD, a total of 34,234 ha of ancient forest was determined to be suitable nesting habitat. The minimum threshold for protection was set at 25,732 hectares. Broken down into landscape units, this is: Sechelt (3,347ha), Homathko (5,670ha), Jervis (6,502ha), Powell (2,731ha), Bute (7,482ha). In the Sea to Sky 9,055 ha of ancient forest was determined to be suitable nesting habitat and the minimum threshold for protection was set at 7,242 hectares. Broken down into landscape units this is: Sea to Sky 1 (2,354ha), Sea to Sky 2 (4,888ha).

33,000 hectares of Old Growth Forest has now been set aside by the Province as Marbled Murrelet Habitat in the Sunshine Coast Natural Resource District and Atl’ka7tsem Howe Sound.

Now that the minimum thresholds for protection have been set under the Land Act, the SCCA will engage the Provincial government to spatially define these 33,000 ha of ancient forest as Marbled Murrelet Wildlife Habitat Areas.

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