BC parks are awesome. The province has the largest provincial park system in Canada, covering about 15% of the land area. Our fabulous parks system is a critical part of our tourism industry’s competitive advantage, attracting visitors from all over the world. Tourism here generated over $18 billion in visitor revenues and 300,000 jobs in 2017.
Of course the majority of people who visit parks are us – the people that live here. Many of us go to favourite provincial parks to do important stuff like maintain and improve our fitness and mental health, teach our kids about nature, picnic with family, watch wildlife, hike on trails and camp and canoe and swim to name a few of our favourite things.
Parks also make up the backbone of BC’s plans to stop species extinction and protect biodiversity. BC has more different types of wild plants and animals than any other province or territory – and many of those are at risk of disappearing because their habitats are getting logged, mined, or drowned under rivers backed up by hydro dams. Parks are wildlife lifelines.
This spring, the BC government announced an $83 million boost in park funding spread out over the next three years. Included in the funding boost was a commitment to build 185 new campsites this year with about half to be fully serviced. Each of these new fully serviced campsites will have sewer and electrical hook-ups for RV users. (Why not build more of the simple less expensive campsites that BC parks are known for?)
The elephant in the room is the obvious fact that BC does not have enough parks and the BC government has presented no plan to expand the parks system to where we need it to be.
In this decade, the Province in partnership with Indigenous communities will need to double the amount of parkland to help stem the tide of species endangerment, to safeguard our multi-billion dollar reputation as a place worth seeing, and to protect ancient landscapes for future generations to enjoy. The Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park comes to mind as a partnership worth repeating.
As I write this the RCMP are arresting people on southern Vancouver Island for peacefully trying to defend remnant ancient forests from being liquidated.
On the Chilcotin Plateau, the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s Dasiqox Tribal Park awaits provincial recognition as mining and logging companies circle like vultures. East of Prince George people are sounding the alarm that the Raush Valley – a rare intact Fraser River tributary – is being targeted for logging. In the West Kootenay people are trying to protect the forests near Argenta from being logged and so it can be added to the adjoining Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park.
In the Lower Mainland, calls to expand park protection on the west side of Manning Park to include the Skagit Headwaters Donut Hole and wild areas along the Highway 3 parkway have resulted in not even one square inch of new parkland.
Just where is BC’s plan to double parks this decade? All I hear from Victoria on that subject is the sound of crickets.
Joe Foy is the protected areas campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.