Dear Editor:

On Tuesday, March 25th at 1 p.m. Bill 4 (the Park Amendment Act) became law, despite widespread opposition from the B.C. public and a consortium of leading environmental organizations and notable park advocates. Changes to the Act allow poorly-defined industrial research to be conducted within provincial parks, facilitating removal of park land to allow for industrial activity, including pipelines, logging roads and resource extraction (see the March 7th, 2014 story in The Pioneer for more details.)

The Minister has received thousands of letters opposing this bill since it was introduced last month, but the publics concerns have been ignored said Peter Wood of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. There has been absolutely zero public consultation, and the pace at which this was pushed through suggests this was never a consideration.

Over 2,000 people have emailed Minister Polak with their concerns from the Kootenays, said John Bergenske, executive director of Wildsight.

This Bill undermines the very definition of what a park is, given that our protected areas will now be open to industrial activity, said Gwen Barlee of the Wilderness Committee. This is a black day for BC Parks the provincial government is ensuring that none of our parks are now safe from industrial development.

Previously, a park use permit could not be issued unless the applicant could prove that the activity was necessary for the preservation or maintenance of the recreational values of the park involved. Bill 4 removes this safeguard, allowing the Minister to grant a permit if it is determined that the research relates to an environmental assessment or a feasibility study, or is necessary to inform decision making around changing the boundaries.

A government document obtained in late 2013, via a Freedom of Information request, revealed that the B.C. government is already considering boundary changes to over 30 parks, including for LNG pipelines and the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. The bill also removes certain protections from smaller parks.

The government has sent a clear signal that it is open to having pipelines cut through our globally renowned protected areas said Al Martin, BC Wildlife Federation. The act will now allow industrial exploration in some of B.C.s most beloved parks, placing them at risk.

These changes are deeply unfair to the British Columbians who participated in the land use planning processes that established many of these parks, said Stephanie Goodwin, Greenpeace. We call upon the B.C. government to cancel Bill 4 immediately and develop alternative legislation that will safeguard the integrity of our parks against industrial activity.

John Bergenske