Province adds 55,000 hectares to B.C. parks

The province introduced a bill in the legislature Thursday that, if passed, would add more than 55,000 hectares to B.C.’s parks, conservancies and other protected areas.

This will add to more than 14 million hectares the province has already protected.

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Among the changes announced Thursday is the addition of marine waters amassing 6,438 hectares of Queen Charlotte Strait to Mahpahkum-Ahkwuna/ Deserters-Walker Conservancy.

At nearby Qwiquallaaq/ Boat Bay Conservancy, 72 kilometres southeast of Port Hardy, an addition of 736 hectares of marine water includes kelp and seagrass beds and important marine mammal habitat.

“This is really important to the local First Nation,” said Environment Minister Mary Polak.

“The Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw have looked for protection for these lands for quite some time, and we’re very pleased that we’ve been able to manage that.”

NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said he would have to study the bill more closely.

In general, he said, he supports adding protected areas and conservancies and increasing park space.

“Of course, the challenge is we’ve added a lot of park space, but the budget for B.C. Parks and the maintenance of that park space has gone down. So you’re having to do more with even less than you had to begin with.”

Other changes in the proposed legislation include:

• Elk Falls Park, near Campbell River: Removing 10 hectares of land for redevelopment of the city’s water system

• Paul Lake Park, near Kamloops: Adding four hectares of recreation area, including picnic tables and a shelter, and removing 2.75 hectares to exclude a community water development

• Indian Arm Park, near Vancouver: Transferring 11 hectares of land to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for creation of 26 recreational lots.

• Kleanza Creek Park, north of Terrace: Removing two hectares of land to allow a local First Nation community access to safe drinking water.

• Indian Lake Conservancy, near Atlin: Adding 7,835 hectares of winter caribou habitat.

• Upper Gladys River/Watsix Deiyi Conservancy, near Atlin: Adding 25,255 hectares, which includes traditional use areas for the Taku River Tlingit First Nation.

• Syringa Park, near Castlegar: Adding 23 hectares. The area is important habitat for bighorn sheep, a species of special concern.

• Ugwiwa’/Cape Caution Conservancy, central coast: Adding 15,444 hectares of marine waters, which protects kelp beds, intertidal and marine areas.

• Ugwiwa’/Cape Caution — Blunden Bay Conservancy, central coast: Adding 94 hectares, including intertidal and marine areas that are grey whale feeding grounds and foraging areas of the marbled murrelet.

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