The province signed a new act into law that will have implications for B.C.’s parks. On Monday, March 24, Bill 4, or the Park Amendment Act became law. The amendment act was first introduced last month and removes a requirement that park use permits could only be issued with proof that the activity was “necessary for the preservation or maintenance of the recreational values of the park involved.” Environmental groups worry that Bill 4 allows the Minister to grant the park use permits as long as the research relates to “an environmental assessment or feasibility study” or is “necessary to inform decision making around changing the boundaries.”
“The government has sent a clear signal that it is open to having pipelines cut through our globally renowned protected areas” said Al Martin, BC Wildlife Federation. “The Act will now allow industrial exploration in some of BC’s most beloved parks, placing them at risk.”
MLA Bill Bennett said he felt the reaction by environmentalists was a little over the top.
“We all care about parks and it just isn’t credible in my opinion to suggest that all of a sudden government is going to open up parks to industrial activity,” Bennett told the Townsman. “What government has done is put into place the authority to study a particular park if there is a major, strategic transmission line or pipeline that must go through a park.”
He said that would be a rare circumstance and would only happen if it was impractical to go around a big park with a transmission line or a pipeline.
“No one is talking about building roads all over parks, or opening them up generally to industrial activity,” he said. “I do appreciate that British Columbians love parks, but we do also have to have jobs and an economy.”
The environmental groups alluded to a government document obtained in late 2013 via a Freedom of Information request revealed that the B.C. government is already considering boundary changes to over 30 parks, including for LNG pipelines and the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
“Over 2000 people have emailed Minister Polak with their concerns from the Kootenays,” said John Bergenske, executive director of Wildsight.
Peter Wood, from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said the Minister has also received thousands of letters opposing this bill since it was introduced last month, but the public’s concerns have still been ignored.
“There has been absolutely zero public consultation, and the pace at which this was pushed through suggests this was never a consideration,” Wood said.