Celebrate Parks Day this weekend
This Saturday, July 19th, is Canada’s Parks Day. All across the country, Canadians will celebrate the important role parks play in maintaining healthy and resilient ecosystems, protecting critical habitat and contributing to human health and happiness. This year, however, many of our favourite BC parks are facing an uncertain future.
With the passing of the Park Amendment Act (Bill 4) in the BC Legislature this spring, consultation-free park boundary adjustments and industrial activities that were formerly prohibited in our parks are now permitted.
Before Bill 4, any activity that disturbed the land or aimed to remove natural resources from a park was only allowed if it was “necessary for the preservation or maintenance of the recreational values of the park involved.” But now, with the rules changed, the BC government has already earmarked more than 30 parks for boundary adjustments, with one company already holding permits for industrial activity inside five BC Parks.
This Parks Day, we are also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the creation of the magnificent Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park. At 200,000 hectares, it is the largest protected wilderness in Southern BC.
“It’s inspiring to see what a group of forward-thinking people in our region were able to accomplish forty years ago,” says Robyn Duncan, Wildsight’s Director of Operations. “It’s an incredible legacy to inherit.”
In the early 1970’s, a group of wilderness activists including Wildsight Executive Director John Bergenske and filmmaker Art Twomey, were alarmed at the pace and scale of the industrial activity around their homes in the upper St. Mary’s Valley. Motivated to act, they made movies and slideshows about the Purcells and began to tour around the province drumming up support for protection of their beloved mountains. Support poured in. Impassioned hikers, climbers, hunting outfitters, fishermen and nature lovers raised their voices and submitted their own photos that captured the rugged beauty, biological diversity and vast wilderness of the Purcells. In 1974, their efforts were rewarded with the creation of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park.
On Saturday, as we celebrate the importance of humans’ relationship with nature by honouring Canada’s parks, BC parks, including the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, are under threat.
“It’s up to us to protect these places for generations to come,” says Duncan. “To say yes to a future with wilderness and wild places. We have a world-class parks system and it’s something I, and many British Columbians, are proud of. Let’s keep it that way.”