The BC Parks Foundation's bank account is getting a major top-up.
In a Thursday, June 1 news release, the provincial government announced it is contributing an additional $10 million to BC Parks' official charitable partner.
B.C.'s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change said the sum will support the foundation's efforts to protect wild spaces across the province, and help create more opportunities for residents and visitors to connect with the great outdoors.
“The BC Parks Foundation brings British Columbians together to care for the incredible network of parks and protected areas that we cherish and that help define our province,” environment Minister George Heyman explained in the announcement. “This $10-million contribution further ensures the foundation’s long-term sustainability, so that together we can preserve many more of the most beautiful places and unique ecosystems in B.C. for our children, our grandchildren and for generations to come.”
The BC Parks Foundation was formed in 2017 by an initial $10-million in provincial funds. Though the government manages BC Parks and its network of more than 1,000 provincial parks, recreation areas, conservancies, ecological reserves, and protected areas, the foundation operates independently.
The organization functions similarly to a hospital or university foundation working to enhance a service or location—in this case, B.C.'s park system—beyond what government funding could achieve.
In the six years since it was established, the foundation has raised approximately $150 million. Those contributions have helped protect "valuable places," throughout the province, such as the 800 hectares of land in the Princess Louisa Inlet the BC Parks Foundation purchased in 2019. The transaction was one of the first ever crowdfunded park land acquisitions.
Foundation funds have also expanded opportunities for vulnerable and marginalized British Columbians to spend time in parks.
The organization, for example, helped fund programming that enticed newcomers to Canada – mostly refugees –"to connect with nature, enjoy the outdoors and create connections in a safe and supportive environment, which is essential to their successful settlement,” said Monica Navarro, executive director of Mosaic Settlement and Employment Services for Newcomers, in the release. “This connection with the land is essential, as it has allowed space to reground, reflect and refocus," she added.
The foundation also sparked Canada’s first "park prescription program" alongside health-care professionals looking for a new way to encourage patients to spend more time in nature.
“Today, the Province is making sure that British Columbians will always have a place to come together in the spirit of gratitude and celebration to support parks and protected areas, so that they flourish forever,” said BC Parks Foundation CEO Andy Day in a written statement.
“Nothing else provides so many benefits for so many people over time, whether by improving your mental and physical health, reducing climate change impacts, protecting other species, contributing to our economy or creating wonderful experiences with friends and family.”
The eight-figure contribution falls in line with the province's goal to conserve and protect 30 per cent of its land base by 2030, up from the 15.4 per cent of B.C. land that is protected today. It also aligns with BC Parks Foundation's latest campaign, 25x25. Launched in September 2022, the initiative endeavours to protect a quarter of B.C.'s land and waters by 2025 in partnership with Indigenous Peoples and the provincial government.
In its 2023 budget, British Columbia's NDP government pledged $101 million in operating and capital funding for BC Parks over the three-year fiscal plan, up from the $83 million over three years the province promised in 2021.