The Coquitlam watershed is one of 34 that make up the Fraser Watershed — the largest in B.C. and the fifth largest in Canada.
All Tri-Cities municipalities reside on the land, and a local politician believes preserving the area will become vital for all walks of life in the years to come.
Coquitlam–Burke Mountain MLA Fin Donnelly is encouraging all levels of government to take action and, on Monday (May 8), moved a motion calling for province-wide watershed security for the benefit of residents, communities and wildlife.
"The watershed sector is a major employer in B.C., contributing billions to our province's economy every year," he said speaking in the Victoria legislature.
"When you compare the watershed sector to other sectors in B.C., it's on par with agriculture, mining and oil and gas."
The watershed sector serves five key areas:
- Watershed management and restoration
- Industrial water management and infrastructure
- Urban water management and infrastructure
- Regulatory and public administration
- Education training and capacity building
Donnelly said, from a 2019 report, nearly 48,000 B.C. residents had a job in the watershed sector that helped bring in $5 billion for the province, and ranged from entry-level positions to permanent.
As well, the parliamentary secretary for watershed restoration called B.C.'s rivers and lakes key components of the tourism, technology and business industries, when clean and "abundant."
"Healthy watersheds support local economies and resilient communities," said Donnelly.
"That's why we need to secure B.C.'s watersheds, so safe... healthy, functioning ecosystems are available to communities, First Nations [on traditional hunting and fishing territories], wild salmon and other wildlife for future generations."
Donnelly hopes the motion can lead to more volunteerism from local residents as well.
In his speech Monday, he noted watersheds are at risk of droughts, floods, wildfires, urban development, industrial demand and resource extraction if security is not improved.
In the meantime, he said the province has nearly finalized a watershed security strategy, with help of First Nations leaders, and is set to be published by the fall.
This is the latest chapter in Donnelly's life-long passion to raise awareness of protecting watersheds.
Since 1995, he's spoken to more than 60,000 people in hundreds of schools and communities about sustainable living, and has been honoured by Indigenous bands for his advocacy.