Last week the Province went ahead, despite opposition from several environmental organizations, and passed Bill 4, which makes amendments to the BC Park Act, one of which allows research in the parks.
“Research” being conducted within BC Parks is what is causing major concern from environmentalists, as they say the term research has been poorly defined and may allow for industry to move in.
The bill was tabled on Feb. 14 of this year, and passed less than six weeks later on March 24. And even though there was no formal consultation, countless citizens have expressed their concerns – concerns that many groups say have been completely ignored.
“The minister has received thousands of letters opposing this bill since it was introduced last month, but the public’s concerns have been ignored,” said Peter Wood with Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
“There has been absolutely zero public consultation, and the pace at which this was pushed through suggests this was never a consideration.”
John Bergenske, executive director of Wildsight, says that more than 2,000 people from the Kootenays alone have emailed Minister of the Environment Mary Polak asking her to reconsider the bill. But the bill went through anyway.
The Act was to come into force on the date of Royal Assent, which was also given on March 24, meaning that permits for “feasibility studies” can be issued at any time.
Minister Polak says the permits are for “research and information gathering,” and that they “do not allow, promote, or otherwise enable industrial projects in parks and protected areas.”
But “feasibility studies” are defined in the act as “a study of the feasibility, including, without limitation, the feasibility of the location, design, construction, use, maintenance, improvement or deactivation, of one or more of the following: a road or highway; a pipeline; a transmission line; a telecommunications project…”
Polak said in an op-ed article that “research can be purely for academic purposes, or as part of an environmental assessment,” and that it will provide vital information, which will be particularly useful if requests for adjustments to park boundaries are eventually proposed.