Environmentalists across the province took Canada Parks Day, July 19, as an opportunity to protest the passing of the Park Amendment Act (also known as Bill 4) this past spring.
In Vancouver last week a petition was unveiled with 167,000 names on it, calling on the provincial government to repeal the act.
“Our parks are in some serious trouble as a result of this new legislation, so today we stand up for them,” said Joe Foy, the Wilderness Committee’s national campaign director.
Critics of the bill say that it allows for industrial research to be conducted in BC Parks, which could open the door to development down the road. No industrial activity is allowed in the parks, however there is a formal process in place to adjust parks boundaries.
“Pipeline giant Kinder Morgan already has a permit to conduct research in Bridal Veil Falls Park, and it’s just one of five protected areas that are threatened by the company’s proposed tar sands pipeline. Rather than clearing the path for pipelines and other industrial projects, our provincial government should be stepping up to expand and improve the world-class park system that British Columbians have worked so hard to establish,” said Foy.
Environment Minister Mary Polak says the concerns are completely unfounded.
“I want to be absolutely clear, the Park Amendment Act does not allow, promote or otherwise enable industrial projects in provincial parks and protected areas. Suggestions that future industrial operations will be allowed in parks are simply not true. There will be no drilling, no mining, no forestry, no transmission lines and no gas wells in our parks,” she said.
“What the Park Amendment Act does is formally authorize low-impact research activities to take place so that we can gain a better of understanding of potential impacts to parks.”
Polak also says that the process for boundary adjustment in the parks is quire rigid, and that nothing has changed that would make it easier for businesses or industry to move in on protected areas.
“There is a rigorous process in place for reviewing boundary adjustments which includes consultations with First Nations, the public and stakeholders,” said Polak.
“British Columbia has the highest percentage of its land base dedicated to protected areas of all provincial Canadian jurisdictions, and is one of the largest protected area systems in North America. This percentage will only continue to increase.”