The B.C. Ministry of Environment has finally reached the computer age.
A new online reporting initiative will make scientific studies more accessible and save trees, said Kamloops-North Thompson MLA and Environment Minister Terry Lake on Monday.
For decades the ministry has printed off hefty binders of information every five years that listed such things as the grizzly bear population, weather patterns and trends in protected areas.
Now all this minutiae of complex scientific data is translated into interactive features and graphics online.
On Monday, Lake announced the launch of the new website Environmental Reporting B.C. at Thompson Rivers University.
Lake said he doesn't know the up-front cost of building the website, but said long term cost savings will accrue out of the elimination of paper reports.
The site covers nine environmental topics: water, air, plants and animals, climate change, contaminants, land, marine, sustainability and waste.
It will be a valuable resource for researchers, said Dr. Karl Larsen, TRU professor of wildlife ecology and management, who reminisced over his exhaustive research into grizzly bears in the early 1990s.
"This will also be a great resource for students," he said during Lake's announcement. "And I really like the idea that the Ministry of Environment has created a user friendly, transparent source that can be used to monitor environmental trends, now and in the future."
Lake acknowledged that easy access to data could also help detractors who say the province should be doing more to protect the environment. But that notion doesn't faze him.
"There are those who say 'You want to keep this information in-house so that it can't be used against you.' That's not the approach we take," he said. "Open data means you can access that information and whether someone uses it to support this argument or another argument, that's fine."