Environmental Action Plan for British Columbia

Article excerpt

When this government came to power in 1991, the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (MELP) was responsible for over 20 Acts that related in some way to environmental management. It was clear that many of these Acts needed review and revision to ensure a solid legislative foundation for the development of innovative policies and programs and to meet emerging environmental challenges. An Environmental Action Plan was created to guide the process of legislative renewal and since 1991, the government has achieved many of the goals set out in the Action Plan including the introduction of several major legislative reforms. These range from amendments to the Land Title Act, the Wildlife Act, the Water Act, and the Waste Management Act, to the introduction of the Environmental Assessment Act and the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act.

The Action Plan for Environmental Legislation

To fulfil our mandate, the government developed the Environmental Action Plan for British Columbia. This document set out MELP's understanding of the environmental management challenges facing British Columbia and established environmental priorities. The Environmental Action Plan also represents a commitment to consultation and review, recognizing that protection of the environment is a regulatory responsibility of government ministries and agencies, as well as a stewardship responsibility shared by all British Columbians. Understanding the challenges and achieving solutions will require the collective resolve and actions of individuals, groups and communities.

Five priorities are reflected in the Environmental Action Plan:

* Improving Environmental Impact Assessment;

* Preserving Biodiversity and Natural Areas;

* Reducing Waste and Preventing Pollution;

* Improving Water Management; and,

* Strengthening Enforcement and Compliance.

These priorities helped set guidelines for the review and revision of environmental legislation, and for consolidation and reform of all environmental protection legislation to ensure greater effectiveness and efficiency.

To provide direction and consistency in the review of the legislation, MELP adopted the following principles:

* Openness and Consultation: The legislation will ensure that information is accessible to British Columbians and that ministry procedures are open, with frequent opportunities for public participation.

* Integration: More emphasis on the integrated management of resources is needed. Hence, the legislation will promote greater integration between ministry programs and activities.

* Innovation: The legislation will include new ideas and approaches.

* Delegation: Where appropriate, the legislation will provide for the delegation of decision-making within the ministry, to other ministries and to local government.

* Prevention: The legislation will reflect a commitment to prevent and resolve environmental concerns before they can become major problems.

* Effective Compliance and Enforcement: The legislation will reflect the need for new approaches to promoting compliance and aiding enforcement to ensure that laws on the books reflect practice in the field.

Most importantly, to make this a successful review and restructuring of environmental protection legislation, we decided that a thorough consultation process was essential. For this reason, we approached legislative reform in British Columbia incrementally through the publication of discussion papers followed by review and debate. This has provided a forum for detailed consultation with the public and key stakeholders.

Legislative Accomplishments

Since 1991, both new Acts and many important revisions to existing Acts have been introduced.

Land Title Act: Natural, historical, cultural and environmental qualities of British Columbia require protection and preservation for future generations. …