It was more than 35 years ago that I first met Otto Langer, a federal fisheries officer at that time, who answered—cautiously—probing questions about the environmental degradation of a local river from a novice reporter at a suburban daily newspaper.
As he read the stories I wrote and answered the questions I asked, he became more open in explaining to me the subtleties of the legislation, its good points and its flaws; and why it somehow couldn’t be used successfully to pin errant companies to the wall.
This naive reporter had difficulty understanding why evidence that seemed as clear as the Coquitlam River was above the gravel companies’ operations, was yet inadequate to result in charges, and later, in convictions.
As a biologist, Otto took the time to explain in technical detail how the settling ponds full of fine silt could suffocate both fish eggs laid in the river’s gravel, and the fish themselves as it clogged their gills when the ponds overflowed or leaked into the river they were adjacent.
It was an education for me, and probably laid the foundation for a life’s work writing about such issues.
Today, he’s been retired for many years, but he hasn’t lost his passion for the natural world or his concern when it is threatened.
Instead of sitting back, resting on the many laurels he’s gathered since his retirement for his efforts to address the wrongs he sees around him, he’s still speaking out to try and prevent more degradation to aquatic habitat in B.C.
So, in a way, it wasn’t surprising to hear from him this week, warning about a leak he’d received regarding changes being proposed to the federal Fisheries Act, that would essentially gut it; would remove protection for fish habitat plus amend the act so it only applies to ‘fish of economic, cultural or ecological significance,’ whatever that could be interpreted to mean—instead of all fish.
I mourn for my grandchildren and for the future of this country if we decide to undermine protective, but not arduous legislation in order to expedite the rape of our natural resources by industrial interests.
If this concerns you, don’t sit back and let it happen. Protest this proposal by writing to your MP and fisheries minister Keith Ashfield to tell them you care about all aquatic habitat and species that survive in those environments. Have organizations you belong to put this on their agenda too, and send letters with their concerns, or your grandkids won’t have any wild aquatic environments left to enjoy.
Such a grassroots outpouring of concern and support for the environment can have a positive impact.
We learned this week that the parcel of Rose Valley Regional Park the provincial government had proposed trading to the Westbank First Nation for a piece of their land being used for the Westside Road Interchange, now is off the table and other parcels of Crown-owned land will be considered instead.
That decision, by Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson, also applies to the section of Crown land which abuts Rose Valley Reservoir, which was to also have been part of the trade.
Thanks to everyone who wrote and lobbied to have that proposal given a second look, and to Steve for carefully weighing all the facts and making a sensible decision.
It shows that what we say can sometimes make a difference.
Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.