March 1, 2011, was the 100th anniversary of BC’s protected area system, and the Wilderness Committee called on the provincial government to commit to reinstating proper funding, staffing and protection for BC’s provincial parks.
“Our parks have suffered from a decade of decay. In 2011, when we should be celebrating the 100th anniversary of our park system we are instead lamenting the fact that BC parks have been starved of funding and staffing,” said Gwen Barlee, Policy Director with the Wilderness Committee. “If the BC government really wants to celebrate this anniversary they should start by implementing the BC Auditor General’s recommendations, doubling the park budget and hiring back park rangers.”
In the fall of 2010 the Auditor General released a highly critical report saying that the province wasn’t doing enough to protect the ecological integrity of provincial parks. Among a list of many problems with the government’s management of parks, the report pointed out that just 24 per cent of Class A parks have management plans in place.
“If our government truly cared about BC Parks they wouldn’t have cut the park budget yet again this year,” said Barlee. “Our trails are falling apart, outhouses have been closed, park visits have declined by 25 per cent, and the short-sighted installation of parking metres have driven away millions of park visitors. The actions the BC Government has taken over the last 10 years are a blueprint for how you drive a park system into the ground.”
BC’s world-famous park system has been hard hit by funding and staffing cutbacks. In 2011 there are just 10 full-time permanent park rangers, 60 per cent fewer than in 2001. Government-funded interpretive programs were scrapped in 2002, leaving BC and Mississippi as the only jurisdictions in North America with no such programs, and the operations budget for BC Parks is now under $30 million – 25 per cent less than in 2001.
“We have fewer BC Parks staff now than we did in 1996 when the park system was half the size it is today,” commented Barlee. “Protection of BC Parks relates to priorities, and for some reason our government doesn’t care enough about parks to adequately fund them. The BC government is supposed to manage parks on the public’s behalf – and that simply isn’t happening; short-changing BC parks has hurt our economy as well as our environment.”
At one time BC’s parks were something we could all be proud of, but now we can only be ashamed by what is happening. Cutback excuses are not good enough, this can only be called mismanagement.
The government needs to rethink their pushing of our parks to the bottom of the pile. Residents of British Columbia need to speak out; join together in one voice, and demand our parks be reinstated as the crown jewel they are, and should be protected as such.