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Here's hoping feds lack of foresight doesn't sink Fraser River estuary

Join me as I step back in time to 1985. Madonna was pretending to be a virgin, Michael J.

Join me as I step back in time to 1985.

Madonna was pretending to be a virgin, Michael J. Fox was heading Back to the Future, Live Aid was raising money and awareness about famine in Ethiopia and British scientists had just informed the world about a troublesome hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

In politics, Brian Mulroney was our PM, Bill Bennett was our premier and Ernie Burnett was our mayor.

As for me, I was saving for a Ford Fiesta and hanging out at the mall in leg warmers, socks with high heels and fingerless gloves, most likely while carrying a five-pound Sony Walkman that was spinning a Wham! tape for the 300th time.

Unlike socks with high heels, there were also good things to come out of 1985. And one of them was the Fraser River Estuary Management Program, otherwise known as FREMP.

Praised as a model for intergovernmental coordination, FREMP's primary objectives are to conserve and enhance the environmental quality of the river and estuary to sustain healthy fish, wildlife, plants and people; respect and further the estuary's role as the social, cultural, recreational and economic heart of the region; and encourage human activities and economic development that protect and enhance the environmental quality of the estuary. Since inception, FREMP has provided a framework to protect and improve the Fraser delta while allowing for economic development opportunities that sustain the quality of life in and around the Fraser River estuary, including the sensitive wetlands of Roberts Bank and Boundary Bay.

As important as FREMP's work is, it's not important enough to escape federal government cutbacks that will spell its demise on March 31. Budget cuts by the Harper government are forcing the closure of FREMP's $350,000-ayear operation, which is also funded by the provincial government, Metro Vancouver and Port Metro Vancouver.

A new model "based on renewed cooperation and ongoing collaboration" is promised, but in the meantime Port Metro Vancouver will be put in charge of environmental reviews. What? With all due respect to the port, I have to agree with former federal fisheries biologist Otto Langer, who told the Vancouver Sun that's like putting the wolf in charge of the sheep.

Even provincial Environment Minister Terry Lake, whose own government isn't above hurtful budget cuts, criticized the federal government over FREMP's imminent sinking, drawing a parallel to the closure of the Kitsilano search-and-rescue station and saying both of those shortsighted actions send the wrong message to British Columbians.

It's ironic that these cuts occur mere months after 20,000 hectares of the Fraser delta were internationally recognized as a Ramsar site - arguably the highest level of environmental value that can be achieved, and due in no small part to the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee, the Burns Bog Conservation Society, the Corporation of Delta and hardworking individuals whose only interest is the preservation of these productive wetlands. Unfortunately, Roberts Bank wasn't included in the recent Ramsar designation, which makes putting Port Metro Vancouver in charge of environmental reviews following FREMP's dissolution even more troubling.

I hope for the sake of the estuary and all the life it supports that killing FREMP doesn't prove detrimental years from now. In our reality, Michael J. Fox doesn't drive a DeLorean and he can't go back in time to reverse a poor decision.

Visit my blog at riverwonders.