CPAWS watching Bill 84 

Chamber for, Wilderness Committee against controversial parks legislation

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s B.C. Chapter is taking aim at a recent provincial government decision to allow resorts to be built into provincial parks, promising to keep a close eye on the issue.

Also called the Parks and Protected Areas Statutes Amendment Act, the amended Bill 84 passed third reading on Nov. 26 to amend the previous act.

Among other things, the act now allows "park use permit for an activity related to resort or tourism development if, in the minister’s opinion, the activity and the development are consistent with or complementary to the recreational values of the park involved."

Under the amended act, the government can also issue drilling licences, permits, leases or other land rights under the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act "for purposes of exploration, or development or production of, petroleum or natural gas in or from the subsurface of land within a park or recreation area."

The government also amended the descriptions and boundaries for several provincial parks, allowing right of ways, roads, pipelines and other conveyances.

"B.C. has one of the greatest wilderness resources in the world and has the chance to do this right," said John Izzo, the B.C. chapter president of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "Tourism done indiscriminately would cause us great concern. We intend to work proactively with tourism and government to make our parks the best in the world."

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce has come out in support of the plan. "In the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics, the legislative changes will enhance our parks’ reputation as another world-class destination that can capture the imaginations and dollars of international tourists," said chamber president John Winter.

Winter also expects the parks to generate more revenue for the province, attracting investment, tourism dollars and jobs while maintaining environmental standards. The province has already committed to helping the tourism industry double revenues by 2010.

"B.C.’s park systems is a valuable asset that should be managed by legislation that balances the needs for economic development in local communities with conservation values and wilderness protection," Winter said.

That said, Winter encouraged the government to "get on with the business of building up our international tourism industry and developing local communities by modernizing our parks protection legislation. Bill 84 is a step in the right direction."

The Western Canada Wilderness Committee was not as enthusiastic over the amended parks bill as the Chamber of Commerce, branding the move as a "sell out."

"When did Joyce Murray (Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection) become the Minister of Industrial Development," asked Gwen Barlee, policy director for the WCWC.

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