The B.C. Legislature will be voting, likely next week, on Bill 4, an amendment to the Parks Act. Bill 4 allows for industry (and others) to carry out research or feasibility studies in provincial parks. The research can be related to pipelines, transmission lines, roads and other industrial activities that might require park land. It also reduces legal protection for smaller parks and enables film production in BC parks.
Environmental groups like Kimberley-based Wildsight are calling it an ill-conceived attack on existing protection.
“Our parks, including the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, Height of the Rockies, St. Mary’s Alpine Park, Akamina-Kishenina, Elk Lakes and provincial parks across British Columbia were created to strike a balance on the landscape, to assure future generations have the opportunity to experience the wildlife and wilderness that makes British Columbia unique in the world,” said John Bergenske, Wildsight Executive Director. “These proposed changes threaten the integrity of our park system and the wild places that British Columbians cherish.”
Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald (NDP) says that his party will be speaking against the proposed amendment and will vote against it.
“It’s a change that takes parks in the wrong direction,” Macdonald said.
Macdonald says that government already has an ability to make allowances for pipelines, but the process is “rigorous”.
He does not see the need for the amendment.
“Parks are to be protected in perpetuity for future generations,” he said. “Bill 4 is clearly the wrong direction. It talks about the changes as fairly benign but feasibility studies begin a process, that once you start, there’s an expectation of more. Having allowed it to begin, you’ve opened the door to the project happening. It sends the wrong message about the value we place on parks. It’s a slippery slope.”
Macdonald says his office has received over 600 emails on the Bill. He says contacting the Minister if you have concerns prior to the vote is never a bad idea.
“I encourage people to contact the Minister. It does make a difference.”
Wildsight has set up an email form for quick contact at http://www.wildsight.ca/act/bcparks