Provincial Response to Riparian Areas Regulation Review

The Office of the Ombudsperson has released a comprehensive review of BC's Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR). The report includes twenty-five recommendations regarding implementation of the Regulation. In response to the report, the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) has accepted twenty-four of the recommendations in full, and one in part.

The Riparian Areas Regulation was designed to protect riparian fish habitat during the process of development for areas of BC experiencing the most development activity. The original agreement for fish habitat protection included an Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement signed by the province, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, establishing clear roles and responsibilities for each of these parties. In reviewing the application of the Regulation by the Province, the researchers founds some gaps including a lack of compliance to the RAR as determined by site visits, limited access to information for the public, and an unclear definition of authority for local governments to vary streamside protection.

Recommendations in the Ombudsperson's report include ensuring full compliance by local governments with the RAR by October 2015; ensuring all qualified environmental professionals are in good professional standing; and amending the RAR to allow the ministry to postpone notification to local governments until its reviews of assessment reports are completed.

In the review of the RAR, the Ombudsperson's office identified that the ministry had delayed amendments to the RAR as it waited for changes to the federal Fisheries Act (2012) to take effect. The Province is now exploring how to implement the recommendations and will be working with UBCM on potential implications for local governments.

For more information, please contact Stacey Wilkerson at the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

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