As British Columbians, we should be proud of the system of parks that has been created to safeguard some of our province’s most beautiful and unique places. Yet funding for our provincial parks has been in steady decline for some time: it’s now one of the worst funded parks system in the country, receiving less than one-tenth of the funding that our national parks receive, on a dollars-per-hectare basis.
BC Parks stewards some of North America’s most spectacular and diverse landscapes and seascapes. Our parks are at the core of our identity as British Columbians and are vital for supporting our health and economy. Our parks system is the largest provincial system in Canada, and yet it is one of the worst funded per-hectare in the country.
Adequate funding for BC Parks is essential to ensuring the integrity of our parks, including hiring enough park rangers and conservation officers to look after them, and providing visitors with a positive experience. Over the past two decades, the provincial parks system has increased in size significantly, as has the number of visitors, but the operating budget for BC Parks has remained stagnant.
BC Parks' annual budget so far has failed to keep up with the cost of maintaining and protecting these treasured places. Currently $31M, this hasn’t changed much since 2000, despite a 4.2-million hectare expansion of our parks system in that time. Inflation and a rapidly increasing population spread this amount even thinner.
In November 2016, the provincial government released a new plan called the BC Parks Future Strategy, which broadly outlines a framework for improving the management and operation of our protected areas system. There are some promising components to the strategy, but overall it is largely lacking in details. Without many of the details about funding increases and additional rangers, among other things, it is unclear how this plan will change the current trajectory our parks system is currently following.
One thing we know for sure: without adequate funding, our parks will continue to suffer and run the risk of becoming nothing more than “paper parks” – protected in theory, but not in practice.
Garibaldi Provincial Park (Dorry Price)
In March of 2014, the B.C. government passed into law the Park Amendment Act, which weakened the legal safeguards put in place to protect our parks, and allows the government to issue park use permits for any activity that qualifies as “research” – a term that is undefined in the legislation. Previously, park use permits were only issued for activities that were in keeping with the natural and recreational values of the park. Under the amended Act, the government now has the authority to issue permits for research activities that don’t support park values, which could include any type of industrial activity.
The Act was rushed through the provincial legislature with no consultation, and was approved despite over 10,000 British Columbians voicing their opposition to it. It paves the way for adjusting boundaries of our protected areas for industrial purposes, is a clear threat to the integrity of our entire protected areas network.
CPAWS joined with other leading environmental groups in B.C. to mobilize British Columbians across the province to speak out against these changes to the Park Act. Along with over 165,000 concerned citizens who signed on to our petition, and over 4,000 who personally wrote letters to the Minister, we called on the government to:
• Reverse these changes and keep industrial activity out of our parks;
• Introduce legislation that will respect the designation of parks and protected areas; and
• Maintain the integrity of parks and protected areas, regardless of their size.
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