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Word that Fisheries and Oceans Canada plans to close its modest Nelson field office comes as another blow to local waterways.
On the heels of BC Hydro’s decision to shutter its Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program office in Nelson — accommodating a government head-cutting edict — it’s enough to make local aquatic life very nervous.
Only a few people work in the local office, but as local politicians point out, they play an important role. With management plans being developed for Kootenay and Slocan lakes, and the Columbia River Treaty up for notice of renegotiation in two years, we should be bolstering, not slashing, what little on-the-ground support we have.
As is typical with the feds, trying to extract detailed information from them about the proposed changes is excruciating.
Biologist Otto Langer, however, has had the inside track for a while. Back in March, he revealed changes were coming to habitat management legislation. At that time, it wasn’t known the Nelson office would be closing. But now we learn it’s just one of many on the chopping block, along with about 130 positions, which the government claims will “increase efficiency.”
“Our current approach subjects all activities to the same rules, which is unnecessary to protect the productivity of our fisheries,” a spokesman told us.
“Our new approach will draw clear distinctions between different types and sizes of projects and waterways and takes into account the potential serious harm to our fisheries.”
Forgive us if we’re deeply skeptical about this, especially coming from the science-averse federal Conservatives.
Consultations are promised this summer, but we fear they will be perfunctory, the kind conducted only after a bad decision has already been made.
Regardless, let’s hold them to their word — and then let them know how unwelcome their changes are.