Environment Minister Mary Polak introduced new legislation today that, if passed, will add more than 11,700 hectares to B.C.’s protected areas system, including the establishment of a new Class A provincial park.
Bill 15, the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2016, also proposes to add land or marine foreshore to five parks and one conservancy, adjust the boundary of one park, and make administrative changes to clarify park descriptions.
Near Prince George, the proposed Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut Park encompasses more than 11,000 hectares, and protects an outstanding example of an inland temperate rainforest. This natural wonder is home to some of the rarest and largest western cedar trees in the province – several of the trees are more than 1,000 years old, with trunks measuring up to 16 metres around. This old-growth forest also provides important habitat to a diverse range of wildlife and other species.
At Halkett Bay Marine Park, a proposed 136-hectare marine foreshore addition protects a recently discovered, rare glass sponge reef southeast of Gambier Island. The glass sponge reef is especially unique in that it is located in only 30 metres of water, making the park one of the few locations in the world where these reefs are accessible to both scientists and scuba divers.
The legislation also removes the words Haynes Point and Okanagan Falls from sw̓iw̓s and sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ parks, following their official renaming in May 2015 to their traditional First Nation names.
Three of the proposed new land additions come in the form of private land acquisitions, including 98 hectares at Tweedsmuir Provincial Park from a donation of private land parcels.
Other private land acquisitions adding to the parks system through this legislation include 2.2 hectares of land at Prudhomme Lake Park near Prince Rupert and 0.4 hectares of land in sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ Park in Okanagan Falls. Also, 1.9 hectares of lake foreshore are proposed to be added to Prudhomme Lake Park.
Additions also include 263 hectares being added to Okanagan Mountain Park on the east side of Okanagan Lake, and a 28.5 hectare increase to the Sheemahant Conservancy, a remote rainforest along B.C.’s central coast.
The proposed boundaries of Nahatlatch Park will change slightly, with the removal of 1.2 hectares to offer those lands to the Boston Bar First Nation as part of a negotiated settlement.
Mary Polak, Minister of Environment –
“The proposed establishment of a park, home to some of the largest old-growth cedar trees in the province reflects the uniqueness of B.C.’s world-renowned park system. This legislation also helps support First Nation and community partnerships, expand our parks and further protect B.C.`s treasured marine life and wilderness for future generations to enjoy.”
Shirley Bond, MLA Prince George-Valemount –
“Today is a significant day as legislation is introduced to create a Class A park protecting the Ancient Forest east of Prince George. For years now dedicated volunteers and community members have worked tirelessly to protect this part of the Interior Cedar Hemlock forest, the world’s only known inland temperate rainforest. These magnificent ancient cedar stands will now have the park status they deserve.”
Jordan Sturdy, MLA West Vancouver-Sea to Sky –
“Glass sponges were thought to be extinct for more than 60 million years, yet it turns out they are in Halkett Bay on Gambier Island. It is one of the few areas that these reefs are at depths shallow enough to visit and study using traditional scuba methods. The expansion of the Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park on Gambier Island will help protect these reefs as it provides great opportunities for scientists and scuba enthusiasts. I’m very pleased to see the glass sponge garden added to our province’s protected areas.”
Linda Larson, MLA Boundary-Similkameen –
“I’m proud to have supported this process from the beginning and delighted the parks now bear their traditional names. I congratulate the Osoyoos Indian Band on their continued successful management of sw̓iw̓s and sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ parks.”
Chief Clarence Louie, Osoyoos Indian Band –
“Today, the traditional Okanagan nqilxʷcən/nsyilxcən names for two important Okanagan First Nation cultural sites at sw̓iw̓s and sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ were legally recognized in the B.C. provincial park system. This marks the first time that the original First Nation name has legally replaced the prior English names for a provincial park. When we speak the names for sw̓iw̓s and sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ, we honour and acknowledge the language of the original inhabitants of the South Okanagan. The respect and recognition shown today for our language, culture and history are a very important step toward a meaningful reconciliation between the Osoyoos Indian Band and the B.C. government.”
- B.C. is recognized as having one of the largest protected areas systems in North America.
- 37% of B.C.’s land base is under some type of conservation designation – ranging from wildlife habitat areas and old growth management areas to parks, conservancies and protected areas.
- The creation of the Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut Park will bring the total number of Class A provincial parks to 628, and B.C.’s protected areas system to 1,030.
- In fall 2015, the Province committed $1 million to assume ownership of several of the 26 conservation properties transferred from The Land Conservancy of BC to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
A backgrounder follows.