Protecting BC Parks through stronger policy

Area parks in proposal; Finn Creek Park, North Thompson River Park, Lac Du Bois Grasslands Protected Area

VICTORIA – A new policy for issuing investigative use and research permits will ensure provincial parks and protected areas are preserved and protected, and B.C.’s parks remain off limits for any new industrial activity.

The new policy improves clarity, certainty and authority for issuing park use permits for activities related to research and investigative use.

Ensuring studies that improve knowledge of potential park impacts can be undertaken in provincial parks is vital in making informed decisions, and will be especially important if requests for adjustments to park boundaries are eventually proposed.

Investigative use and research permits will be considered only after a thorough review of protected area values, including both management plans as well as impact and conservation assessments, with the primary consideration being the protection of natural resources.

Research and information gathering activities could include such things as soil sampling for archaeological assessments, collection of plant and animal specimens, or the installation of gauges and instruments to measure environmental conditions.

Research can be for purely academic purposes, park and protected area management or as part of an environmental assessment or feasibility study.

Public consultation on the draft policy took place following the introduction last year of Bill 4, the Park Amendment Act, 2014. The research permit policy can be found at: http://wwwd.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/permits/consultation/research-policy.html

The Park Act is one of the principal pieces of legislation governing protected areas in British Columbia. Amendments made to the Park Act in 2014 do not allow, promote or otherwise enable industrial projects in parks and protected areas.

In order for land to be removed from a park, a boundary adjustment must be made because new industrial activity will not be allowed in our parks. Before any proposed park boundary adjustment is considered, a very rigorous exercise must be undertaken requiring public, First Nation and local community consultation, a review of alternatives to avoid the park and the completion of environmental assessments. Ultimately, boundary adjustments require legislative approval.

“Protecting our natural spaces is a priority,” said Mary Polak, Minister of Environment, “This policy provides more clarity around how research and information-gathering activities will be undertaken in B.C.’s parks and protected areas, which allows us to make informed decisions.”

British Columbia has the highest percentage of its land base dedicated to protected areas in Canada, and one of the largest protected areas systems in North America.

There are currently five active boundary adjustment proposals, potentially affecting eight of B.C.’s 1,029 parks and protected areas. Active Stage 2 Boundary Adjustment Proposals include: Parks Kleanza Creek Park, Finn Creek Park; North Thompson River Park; Lac Du Bois Grasslands Protected Area; Bridal Veil Falls Park; (a resource use permit is being sought for Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area), Kalamalka Lake Park, Nahatlatch Park, and Sasquatch Park.  Information on these proposals is available on the BC Parks website at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/PBAProcess/

Since 2004, just 0.028% of the 14 million hectares in the provincial protected areas system has been affected by boundary adjustments.

During the same period, over 3.3 million hectares were added. This includes converting the designations of some existing areas totalling more than 500,000 hectares to Class A parks and conservancies to provide an increased level of protection.