A Wetland Action Plan for British Columbia

Introduction, function and benefits of Wetlands

The importance of this plan of action is to be able to protect and conserve current wetlands and restore the ones that have been damaged or destroyed. The organization in charge of this plan is the Wetland Stewardship Partnership ( WSP), a varied congregation composed of governmental and non-governmental agencies, as a consequence they have developed the Wetland Action Plan. The plan includes arguments that determine that cooperation between agencies is vital for it to work. There are ongoing opportunities of cooperation with conservation groups such as Living Water Smart, Biodiversity BC, BC Climate Action Plan and BC Conservation Framework.

A wetland can include five different types of connotation such as bogs, fens, swamps, marshes and shallow open waters (e.g. ponds). Wetlands are not only beneficial for the ecosystem around it and in it (e.g. plants, fish, migratory birds) but for economical and social well-being. They can serve as natural water filters against pollution and microbes, help with flood controls (within a big area range), and erosion control. And of course they are a source of food and fresh water. The plan includes 4 key points that are: expanding knowledge on wetlands and their history, as well as their function; reinforcing and educating the public, industries and government on the economical, social and ecological importance of wetlands; strengthening legal actions and protections; priorities in protecting and conserving wetlands with coordination efforts between organizations.

The structure of the Wetland Action Plan is planned on the explanation of wetlands and their role in the ecosystem, the quality and quantity of the water flow in the hydrological cycle, including why they are valuable to society. Then, it continues with a description of the state of the current wetlands in BC, leading on to arguments on who has the jurisdiction and  in which sector. The second part of the plan states the 6 goals and actions to the conservation and restoration of wetlands.

There are three major wetlands in BC that are internationally recognized by the International Convention on Wetlands, also known as the Ramsar Convention. Such Wetlands are crucial to migratory birds and the local wildlife. Those wetlands are situated Alaksen National Wildlife Area (migratory bird sanctuary), Creston Valley (important waterbird habitat) and Columbia Wetlands (largest of it’s kind, provides nesting and rearing habitat for more than 180 species of bird).

Wetlands are also valuable for what is happening right now with our climate, their ecosystems keeps the atmosphere in balance, acting as ‘carbon sink’, helping a small but important scale of climate change. Wetlands cover only 3% of the world but store between 20-25% of the global soil organic carbon stock.

They also play a major part in wildlife habitat, providing food, shelter and safety. Additionally, migratory birds’ survival depends on wetlands.

Economic value

It has been studied that wetlands are of great economical value for the community and the government, as well as independent industries. Protecting and conserving a wetland is much more efficient and costs less than if one was to be created or restored. Wetland restoration requires returning one or more specific component to the wetland (e.g. water retention to a degraded or drained site). Created or ‘constructed’ wetlands are structures built in a very short period of time for a specific purpose, such as sewage and stormwater treatment pond. In recent years, wetlands have been notorious for their recreational and educational values, school that could not afford school trips would build a wetland near the school range and go there to educate students for a field day, for  recreation purposes sightseeing, photography, swimming, bird watching, fishing…

Wetlands if not conserved and protected properly will impact on the quantity and quality of water, during the wet season. Wetlands retain water from every water source in the area, protecting areas from flood. Moreover, if there weren’t any wetlands, floods would affect not only the area where the wetland should have been situated but other areas, on a wide scale, causing damages to city and towns and therefore bringing in high amounts of expenses. Flood expenses can be very high and the destruction of homes (human and wildlife)is a serious concern. Wetlands are important for the community and the economy.

By stabilizing shorelines and riverbanks, wetlands protect against the type of erosion that can make land more vulnerable to damage from flood surges.


Around 50% of the world’s wetlands have already been lost and BC is mainly losing its wetlands due to draining and filling for new subdivisions or industry development. Climate change is also a big threat. Even though wetlands help act as ‘carbon sinks’, dry years can severely damage them as wetlands may not fill them up. Here are some of the major threats that wetlands are exposed to: invasive species, development activities relating to mining and oil and gas extraction, forest management practices, construction of transportation and utilities networks and recreational activities.

In order to control and manage those threats as best as possible, cooperation and coordination between intergovernmental agencies is a major requirement.

Wetland Action Plan

The Wetland Action Plan is composed of 6 goals that include 3 objectives that must be met as well as specific actions that must be taken to achieve the goals. Those 6 goals are:

  1. Development of Wetland Information Base: this argues for the development of a comprehensive and reliable wetland information base to support effective planning, law-making, and policy development. The first objective is the creation of a reliable and comprehensive data base on wetlands, as valuable data on wetlands is important for effective decision making. The action plan for this goal is to determine and develop existing tools and resources for mapping, documenting and other scientific research methods (GIS, remotely sensed information…) to create a provincial wetland evaluation system.
    The second objective includes analyzing the current and historical compositions of the wetlands in BC, as well as identifying their plans. The third one is to establish priorities in the actions for wetland protection and restoration, as well as doing further research about their functions, status and trends for a better understanding and knowledge.
  2. Developing and Educating Public, Industry and Government Awareness: The first objective is to promote wetland education to the public sphere. Preparing toolkits and brochures for educating youth in schools, and more detailed brochures for Government agencies. The second objective is about further analysis of the threats that affect wetlands in BC and by communicating them to the public through different methods such as WAP websites, flyers and stories. The third objective is all about communicating and building a strong file for government and non-government agencies as a source of motivation to participate in this project.
  3. Protecting Wetlands through Laws and Policies:  The first objective is to find and promote policies and legislation for wetland conservation, as well as developing a policy for BC. The Stewardship will review legislation that would have a negative impact on wetlands, in order to propose improvements for their protection. The second objective looks over laws and legislation from other jurisdictions, through an inter-jurisdictional review to find law models that work in other regions and protect wetlands. The third part is to advertise effective and enforceable management practices.
  4. Establishing the integration of wetland conservation in strategic land use processes: The first objective is to help and advertise watershed management planning processes. The second one is to be sure that all the new plans that are being put in place including resource management, watershed management and local land use plan. As for the third objective, it is to make sure that wetland conservation and protection plans appear in multi-scale biodiversity protection and water strategies.
  5. To protect, conserve and restore priority wetlands:  Priority wetlands identified by the WSP are for example wetlands of provincial, federal or international importance, with rare, threatened or endangered species. The first objective is in the protection of the priority wetlands by defining which area should be priority or not. Resulting in the creation of a framework of support for the conservation of the areas and establishing protection plans. The second objective is to strengthen  involvement on various scales, such as public, industry and conservation organizations. The third objective is to provide a funding support system to help the acquirement of wetlands in order to protect and restore them.
  6. Encourage Partnership and Improve Coordination:  By combining efforts between agencies, this allows a much more efficient decision and task making, as well as avoiding that the same work is done twice. The First objective is to improve the relation and partnership between governmental and non-governmental  organizations in the acquisition and protection of wetlands. The second objective is to facilitate promotion efforts between and at all level of government. The third objective is the achievement in the promotion of public education and the circulation of wetland information.


To conclude the Wetland Action Plan’s major priority is to protect, restore and conserve wetlands across BC. The plan states and demonstrates that wetlands are not only an important food source and habitat for wildlife species but also helps the communities in economical and ressource ways.

Fish and Riparian Habitat in:

  • Source Wetland Stewardship Partnership. March 2010. A Wetland Action Plan for British Columbia (Power point). Available at : https://bcwetlandsca.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/bcwetlandactionplan_wsp_2010.pdf [Accessed 03/2021].