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LETTER: Saanich’s push for biodiversity must start on public lands

In his letter on developing a strategy to address biodiversity, Saanich Coun. Zac de Vries indicates that there has been “some misunderstanding and misinterpretation in the community related to the mapping” and goes on to mention ground truthing.

The mapping that Diamond Head Consulting has used, and similar mapping still found on the Saanich GIS system, has been shown to consist of many errors, errors that have been pointed out by multiple environmental professionals, including some of the Resilient Saanich Technical Committee (RSTC) members, who have ground-truthed multiple properties. There is presently no process to remove these incorrect units from the maps, therefore landowners will see that the errors from the past still exist. This is not misunderstanding and misinterpretation, it is lack of action to improve a very flawed mapping product, especially within the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB).

SCRES has been requesting ground truthing of the mapping since providing a report to Saanich council in 2015. Nothing has happened, except a process to remove houses and driveways. The mapping has so many errors and no process to remove them, that the Mapping Group of the RSTC has recommended that new ecosystem mapping should be created within the UCB and in all Saanich parks. New, ground-truthed, accurate mapping is essential to gain landowner trust.

The councillor’s statement about ground-truthing providing sufficient information to determine if an area has “potential for restoration” is concerning when it was looked at with the same lens of the previous EDPA, where, even though restoration potential was not a criterion within the EDPA, it was being used as if it was. All properties in Saanich have potential for restoration. Will Saanich restore its highly degraded natural area parks? Will Saanich properties such as the Cedar Hill Golf Course be restored to camas meadows, as existed in the past? Will the wetland at Gyro Park be restored?

It is important to point out former Coun. Rebecca Mersereau’s comments about enhancing biodiversity in Saanich. She stated: If biodiversity conservation is truly a priority in Saanich, I believe we would have long ago invested more resources into protecting and even enhancing biodiversity in our extensive protected parks network.

SCRES believes that there needs to be an assessment of the restoration needs of Saanich’s highly degraded parks, and that there needs to be a funded voluntary private land stewardship program that works cooperatively with landowners to enhance their properties for biodiversity, by providing education, incentives, and encouragement. Coun. de Vries states that: “We’ll achieve this by working together collaboratively.” SCRES has been calling for this approach since 2015.

Saanich, however, needs to lead by example on public lands and presently is not.

Anita Bull

Saanich Citizens for Resilient Environmental Stewardship