Proposed additions to BC Parks system welcomed, need additional funding

Vancouver — CPAWS-BC welcomes a new Bill tabled yesterday in the B.C. legislature which will add more than 11,700 hectares of lands and ocean to the province’s protected areas system, including a new Class A park in the northern interior and a rare glass sponge reef near Vancouver. There is much to be celebrated in this proposal, however concerns remain over the ongoing funding crisis for BC Parks and the need for the federal government to add protection measures for the globally unique glass sponge reefs.

The bulk of the lands to be added are in the proposed Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Wudujut Park, located near Prince George, which will protect globally unique inland temperate rainforest, one of B.C.’s least protected ecosystems.

“BC’s rarest and most vulnerable ecosystem types are under-represented in our protected area system, so we’re glad to see that the Province is taking this into account. We hope to see protection expand to other ancient forests around the province,” said Peter Wood, CPAWS-BC’s Director of Terrestrial Campaigns.

The Bill also officially renames two provincial parks in the South Okanagan – formerly known as Haynes Point and Okanagan Falls– to their traditional First Nations names, sw̓iw̓s and sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ parks.

“The renaming of these parks to their traditional First Nations names represents an important first for B.C. and we hope to see more of this. The Osoyoos Indian Band and the Province are to be commended for achieving this significant milestone,” said Wood.

CPAWS-BC also welcomes the extension of Halkett Bay Marine Park to include the extremely rare glass sponge reef but is concerned that the reefs remain vulnerable to impacts from fishing and boat anchors.

“While we applaud the BC government for recognizing the significance of the glass sponge reefs, they will only be adequately protected when the federal government steps up and and closes the area to commercial and recreational fishing,” said CPAWS’ National Ocean Program Director Sabine Jessen.

No commitment to increase BC Parks funding

The annual budget for BC Parks has not changed in 15 years, despite significant additions to the parks system in that time. When factoring in inflation, the relative value of this budget has actually decreased by nearly $10M and yet new additions to the parks system are announced on a near-yearly basis.

“While we welcome the expansion of the parks system, funding for BC Parks is already at rock-bottom levels and this will strain an already meager budget. We run the risk of creating ‘paper parks’ – lines drawn on a map that are unable to assure on-the-ground protection,” adds Wood.