Defining species at risk in Peninsula park a problem

One might be excused for thinking the issue could be easily resolved but it appears to be a question of what experts you want to believe.

  • Feb. 26, 2015 1:00 p.m.

“There are 33 species at risk that use the park or the immediate foreshore.”

It’s a claim by the Capital Regional District in its proposed management plan for Island View Beach that The Friends of Island View Beach (FIVB) vehemently dispute.

The group claims  the CRD has inflated the number of species at risk with the inclusion of plants, insects and other animals who are either not at risk or are not even present in the park.

While one might be excused for thinking the issue could be easily resolved by consulting the experts, it appears to be a question of what experts you want to believe.

Take the bog spider. According to information presented by FIVB and drawn from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), “Only single specimens were collected at these locations despite several thousand pitfall traps over multiple months. These occurrences may represent random dispersal by “ballooning from the strong population at Tumbo Island.” In other words, according to COSEWIC, the bog spider isn’t even present at Island View Beach Regional Park.

Not so, according to Claudia Copely, the Senior Collections Manager at the Royal BC Museum.

“That information is based on information in 2009. We set our traps in different places … in the wet areas … and we’ve identified the species as living in the park.”

When asked why COSEWIC continues to post their information, and why they wouldn’t have accepted this new information and modified their own listing, Copely said that COSEWIC may have a backlog of information.

“I can understand that people who don’t work in the area could be confused.”

Similar disputes have arisen about virtually all of the species that have been put forward by the CRD as at risk.

The whole thing is further complicated by exactly what the CRD means when they say that there are 33 species at risk “that use the park or immediate foreshore.”

According to Todd Golumbia, one of the CRD’s chief architects of the new process, it’s a complicated issue.

“With plants it’s easier, but with animals you never quite know whether they’re in the park or not. They may be there 100 per cent of the time or they might just be there for a short period as they pass through.”

Still, the FIVB insist that the number of at risk species has been inflated to promote what they predict will be an environmental bias in the eventual management plan. They say that this belief is  borne out by the admission of the CRD itself.

In a January 29 letter to the FIVB, Mike Walton, the CRD’s Senior Park Manager, said “Regarding your concern around species at risk, there are 33 known species at risk in and around the park. Nine species are known to be resident or breeding in the park.”

The debate continues into the next phase of the process for Island View Beach Regional Park.

— Tim Collins/Contributor