Letters

Alarm bells ringing about potential changes to parks legislation

Dear editor,

Alarming news came recently from Victoria.

Bill 4, which proposes major changes to the Park Act has now gone through second reading. After third reading this bill will be law.

This is alarming news for any person who cares and loves our BC Parks system. It is a déjà vu.

In 1986, based on faulty legal advice, the government buckled under the pressure of industry and opened B.C. parks to mining exploration.

It seems that industry and commercial development are hammering on the doors in Victoria again for private industrial opportunities incompatible with the natural and public character of our parks.

The BC Parks system was established after the creation of Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island in 1911.

Initially, all parks were closed for industrial activity including mining, logging and hydro development. In 1917, the ban on mining exploration was lifted.

This eventually resulted in the development and establishment of then-Western Mines at the headwaters of Buttle Lake and the damming of what was once one of the most beautiful lakes on Vancouver Island, Buttle Lake.

The parks were subsequently closed again to further mining exploration and a poorly developed mine at Della Falls was closed. However Western Mines continued to operate. This has left a large landscape scale scar in the middle of Strathcona Park.

In 1986 the government appointed a committee to make recommendations on industrial claims within the parks. Large sections of many parks in B.C. were downgraded to accommodate mining activity.

This decision was based on faulty legal government advice on a mining lawsuit in Wells Gray Park, the Tener mine.

Strathcona Park, the first park in B.C. and the “flagship in the BC Parks system” was roaded, logged, mined, burned and flooded — it got the worst deal of all parks.

The heart of the park, including Cream Lake, was downgraded from Class A to class B park to accommodate mining.

An outraged public, already dissatisfied with the then-Social Credit government protested with a blockade in the middle of winter in the middle of Strathcona Park for over three months. Sixty-four people were arrested and 11 were jailed for defending a public trust, the oldest park of B.C., from industrial activity.

This was one of the catalysts to change government from Social Credit to NDP.  Eventually, under the NDP government Strathcona and many other B.C. parks were reinstated as Class A parks.

Now, 24 years later, and merely three years past its 100-year birthday, our parks are under attack again.

The new 2014 amendments of the parks Act Bill 4 will open our parks yet again for industrial and commercial “research” and development.

The following is worthwhile to read:

In essence this bill will permit industrial and commercial so-called “research” into our provincial parks.

Initially Mary Polak, minister of environment, said it was to facilitate research for filmmaking in parks. Later, when questioned by CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) and WCEL (West Coast Environmental Law) it became clear that this research would include commercial and industrial activities such as pipelines, transmission lines, hydro generation, mining, roads, etc.

This legislation affects all our provincial parks. Many people across B.C. have already expressed their dismay to Polak, including Greenpeace, CPAWS, Wilderness Committee, Valhalla Wilderness Society and Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC.

Friends of Strathcona, the Comox District Mountaineering Club and other local organization are following suit.

If you care about keeping your parks wild and natural, you have to stand up for them.

Write a letter to Minister Polak, Comox Valley MLA Don McRae or North Island MLA Claire Trevena. Join and support those organizations lobbying and fighting for your parks.

Don’t allow the government to leave a legacy that could lead to the local destruction of wildlife, fish or fauna habitat. Let’s leave a legacy for future generations of full protection of our parks as it was intended in the establishment of our BC Parks system in 1911.

Let’s keep our government to its promises and safeguard those promises in perpetuity.

Dr. Marlene Smith,

Comox Valley

 

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