On April 16, 2021, the honorable George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy announced the largest budget boost to BC Parks in almost four decades. Over the next three years, BC Parks’ budget will increase by $83 million, raising the annual budget to around $70 million. More specifically, the capital budget will increase by an average of 57% and the operating budget will increase by an average of 22% over each of the next three years.
BCWF Partners with 19 Other Organizations to Support BC Parks
On February 4, 2021, on behalf of BCWF and 18 other tourism, recreation, conservation, cultural and labour organizations that represent 1,400 member organizations and businesses, the Outdoor Recreation Council sent a letter to Premier Horgan making a case for the bold, timely and necessary investment in BC Parks in Budget 2021.
“We are proud and excited to have partnered up with 19 other B.C. organizations to advocate for the provincial government’s commitment to increase the annual budget for BC Parks to $100 million. We are particularly concerned about declining wildlife populations and a lack of ecosystem restoration, especially large prescribed fires in parks and protected areas.” Jesse Zeman, BCWF Director of the Fish & Wildlife Restoration Program, said.
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Op-ed in The Province
Published in The Province on March 3, 2021
There’s a glimmer of hope for our parks system, which has been at the breaking point for years.
At the start of the pandemic, when people needed them most, provincial parks were forced to close. When they reopened last summer, we saw parks infrastructure pushed to the limit by British Columbians clamouring to get into the outdoors.
In more populous parts of the province, where green-space access is in highest demand, visitors struggled to even enter parks due to long lineups for parking spots. Online campground reservations filled up within seconds and trails were crowded while we were trying to remain physically distanced.
Winter recreation has been no different. North Shore Search and Rescue say they, along with many of their counterparts around the province, have had their busiest winter ever.
As vaccination levels rise and we begin to come out of the pandemic, experts anticipate a tourism boom. B.C. will once again welcome visitors from provinces near and far and then the rest of the world to the province’s beautiful mountains, lakes and seashores. But are we ready?
Our parks desperately need more funding. Investment in the outdoors will create jobs across the province that will support sectors hit hardest by the pandemic.
A robust parks system brings much-needed tourism dollars to rural communities and expands recreation opportunities for city-dwellers. Reliable jobs in and around parks will support livelihoods across B.C. Plus, rangers are the eyes and ears in parks and they reduce dangerous backcountry rescues through monitoring and education. Stable resourcing will make it possible to deepen partnerships with Indigenous communities.
Of course, it’s not just about money and jobs. Parks protect nature, which suffers without the oversight that proper funding provides. We need parks to preserve the integrity of wild places. New investment can also bring science back into parks, enabling wildlife monitoring and ecosystem restoration programs, an essential investment in keeping fish, wildlife and ecosystems healthy.
Recently, British Columbians got welcome news from Premier John Horgan, who handed down a mandate to his returning Ministry of Environment, acknowledging the need for improved parks funding for more trails, campgrounds and protected areas.
To make a meaningful commitment to B.C. Parks, the province must increase the annual parks budget to at least $100 million for capital, land acquisition and operations. The return on investment will be a speedier economic recovery, a deeper commitment to reconciliation and improved health for the people and nature in B.C.
We’ll be watching closely as the government decides what B.C.’s parks are worth. With the right financial investment and leadership, these remarkable resources can be brought back from the brink of collapse to offer prosperity and wellness for generations to come.
Annita Mcphee, executive director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society — B.C. chapter.
Walt Judas, CEO, Tourism Industry Association of B.C.
Louise Pedersen, executive director, Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C.
Jesse Zeman, director of fish and wildlife restoration program, B.C. Wildlife Federation.