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B.C. Parks Act changes opposed by environmental groups

Green groups say proposed amendments will open up parks to non-beneficial research and industry

CBC News Posted: Mar 04, 2014 6:10 AM PT

Environmental groups are asking the province to withdraw proposed changes to the B.C. Parks Act that could open them up to corporate interests.

About half a dozen groups warn the amendments will drop a requirement that research conducted in a provincial park is done so for the park's benefit. The groups are also concerned the amendments will make it easier for industry to apply for changes to park boundaries.

"There's nothing in the legislation that would prevent a mining company from clearing land, taking out large quantities of rock to try to explore for minerals, if it was done as part of an environmental assessment or a proposal to change park boundaries," said West Coast Environmental Law spokesperson Andrew Gage.

"This is a 'Trust us, we're government' approach to managing B.C.'s parks. But our preference would be to have legislation that didn't open this Pandora's box."

Parks Minister Mary Polak insists the proposed changes will permit "very minor" research activities that will ultimately lead to better decision-making around park management and wildlife areas.

She also said any proposed changes to park boundaries will have to be passed by the B.C. legislature.

"This is an amendment that will allow us to have better and more fulsome information if indeed there are requests for adjustments to park boundaries."

The groups say the government's promises mean little since what exactly constitutes "research" is not defined in the amendments.

Legislative debate on changes to the B.C. Parks Act are slated to begin this week.

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