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 Wudujut 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.
- 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 Wudujut 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.