Monday, May 10, 2010

Parks and Protected Areas

It is good news that British Columbia has approximately 13% of its area in Parks and other types of protected areas such as Ecological Reserves. This meets international targets and most ecosystems are fairly well represented in protected areas.

Protected areas are intended to conserve biological diversity and ecosystems from the effects of our material needs. Most of BC's parks have forests and forestry interests often talk about them as a threat to to the economic well being of BC. This narrow utilitarian perspective is at odds with the the international Montreal Process definition of sustainable forest management. Its definition sees parks and the conservation of biological diversity in protected areas and in managed forests as an important part of sustainable forest management and conservation.

The increase in the area of parks in BC gives us some hope for a sustainable future. That hope lies not so much in the protected land but in the fact that it signifies some change in our attitude. What do parks say about us? They remind us that we can move beyond that ever present state of anxiety about our material needs. They are like a Sunday's rest from industry and our restless need to make, want or consume more. Targets for the amount of area that should be protected are often around 1/7 of the total land.

BC's politicians like to look good. They can claim that BC has more area protected than other parts of Canada or the world. They dress up well on the issue of Parks. We should celebrate our Parks. Some jurisdictions have parks that are distinguished only by the fact that they are protected. Most BC Parks are spectacular by comparison.

While BC politicians like to put on Parks like a fancy suit, they are reluctant to allocate sufficient funds to maintain parks and protected areas. Parks budgets are unlikely to increase. Trails and other infrastructure in Parks will continue to deteriorate.

Individuals, groups in BC communities can take action to change the situation and show greater care of local parks than that afforded by the central BC Government. BC Parks staff are open to volunteers. Volunteers are even provided with liability insurance coverage while undertaking trail maintenance and other tasks.

Celebrate your local park by maintaining it to a high standard. Improve the amenities available to your community. Remember it is not just material needs that develop economic activity. A community with good hiking trails through its local landscapes and features will attract tourists. It is a sign that a community is extending a caring interest to its surrounding forests and parks.

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