A new BC Watershed Security Fund: A Collaborative Vision Strategic Directions Paper, released December 6th, 2021, brings together the insights and best thinking from the Sustainable Funding Working Group—16 experts and knowledge holders working in Indigenous governance, local government, funding and financing, forestry and land-use practices, and watershed management, including POLIS’ Oliver M. Brandes and Rosie Simms.
In British Columbia, the natural wealth and benefits provided by watersheds are coming under increasing pressure. During the past five months, communities across the province have experienced an unprecedented heat dome, severe droughts, and devastating forest fires. And, at the time of publication of the Strategic Directions Paper, southern B.C. is reeling from unprecedented flooding. We can no longer take our watershed security for granted.
Indigenous Nations, local governments, watershed groups, and communities have been calling for long-term investments in B.C.’s watersheds for years. The provincial government has heard, and has made a commitment to create a B.C. Watershed Security Fund.
“We all live downstream and the upstream accumulative effects impact us all,” said Toni Boot, Mayor of Summerland B.C. and member of the Working Group. “The place to start protecting this critical resource is at its source. The time to start protecting it—with sustainable funding, collaboration with Indigenous people, and clear legislation—is now.”
In the Strategic Directions Paper, the Working Group presents a bold vision for B.C.’s Watershed Security Fund, along with 10 strategic directions targeted towards the provincial government that will help make this vision a reality. The Paper builds on over five years of work by many partners across B.C. to advance the provincial Fund.
“A Watershed Security Fund will contribute to the value we put on water as a priority and the need for us to work together as peoples,” said Lydia Hwitsum, Political Executive, First Nations Summit and member of the Working Group. “The work the Fund will support will help us demonstrate our commitment to each other and to Mother Earth.”
The Paper is intended to be a dialogue starter to support First Nations, local governments, and community organizations in their engagement with the provincial government on the Watershed Security Fund.
“The exercise of Indigenous rights and title to the land relies on healthy watersheds and functioning ecosystems,” said Tara Marsden, Senior Indigenous Advisor, Healthy Watersheds Initiative and member of the Working Group. “Investing in watershed health as we collectively face a climate crisis is critical—now more than ever.”
Key strategic directions described in the new paper include:
- Co-create Fund governance with Indigenous peoples, ensuring explicit roles for First Nations in the governance and leadership structure, recognition of Indigenous rights and authority, and principles of Indigenous governance.
- Establish the Fund to provide consistent, sustainable funding in the range of $50 to $100 million annually over the long term.
- Implement a layered financing model, including a one-time provincial endowment of $600 million, revenue sharing with First Nations, and partnering with other funders, including the federal government.
- Allocate a minimum of $27 million in the 2022/23 provincial budget to continue the Healthy Watersheds Initiative while the Fund is established. When the Fund is established, make 10 per cent of the initial endowment available for upfront spending.
- The provincial government’s commitment to create a Watershed Security Fund presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the kind of investment our watersheds and communities desperately need.
The provincial government is expected to start its engagement process around the Watershed Security Fund in early 2022. Sign up for more information on this process, stay informed, and access resources here.