New B.C. protected parkland still vulnerable, group warns

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By Matt Kieltyka Metro

The provincial government’s move to expand B.C.’s park system by 1,540 hectares has received muted praise from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

While Peter Wood, CPAWS director of terrestrial campaigns in B.C., said it’s good the government is moving to protect more land, he said the announcement is offset by legislation passed last year that allows for park boundaries to be adjusted to facilitate industrial development.

“Any park is open to development now, so that underwhelms our enthusiasm for additional protected areas,” said Wood. “It goes against the basic idea that parks are forever. The legislation isn’t consistent with what parks are supposed to be.”

Since the government introduced the Provincial Amendment Act last year, allowing park use permits to be issued for filming and research activities (including industrial feasibility studies), there have been 10 requests for park boundary adjustments from proponents.

The proponents include Kinder Morgan Canada, which has applied to amend the boundaries of four parks and protected areas to enable the construction of the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.

Another application from the Seabird Island Band proposes the removal of 5.7 hectares of land through Sasquatch Park, to be used as a logging road.

“That would really prevent campground opportunities for families and open up logging on the far side of the protected area,” said Wood.

While the Ministry of Environment insists no industrial projects are permitted within provincial parks, NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said he shares CPAWS’ fear that protected land could be removed at the whims of industry.

“It is a concern,” Chandra Herbert said. “[Government] is making it easier for pipeline companies like Kinder Morgan. I get why people are concerned.”

Minister of Environment Mary Polak was not available for comment.

B.C.’s system of provincial parks and protected areas contains over 14 million hectares.

The provincial government’s move to expand B.C.’s park system by 1,540 hectares has received muted praise from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

While Peter Wood, CPAWS director of terrestrial campaigns in B.C., said it’s good the government is moving to protect more land, he said the announcement is offset by legislation passed last year that allows for park boundaries to be adjusted to facilitate industrial development.

“Any park is open to development now, so that underwhelms our enthusiasm for additional protected areas,” said Wood. “It goes against the basic idea that parks are forever. The legislation isn’t consistent with what parks are supposed to be.”

Since the government introduced the Provincial Amendment Act last year, allowing park use permits to be issued for filming and research activities (including industrial feasibility studies), there have been 10 requests for park boundary adjustments from proponents.

The proponents include Kinder Morgan Canada, which has applied to amend the boundaries of four parks and protected areas to enable the construction of the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.

Another application from the Seabird Island Band proposes the removal of 5.7 hectares of land through Sasquatch Park, to be used as a logging road.

“That would really prevent campground opportunities for families and open up logging on the far side of the protected area,” said Wood.

While the Ministry of Environment insists no industrial projects are permitted within provincial parks, NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said he shares CPAWS’ fear that protected land could be removed at the whims of industry.

“It is a concern,” Chandra Herbert said. “[Government] is making it easier for pipeline companies like Kinder Morgan. I get why people are concerned.”

Minister of Environment Mary Polak was not available for comment.

B.C.’s system of provincial parks and protected areas contains over 14 million hectares.