Summary of the Interim Report
British Columbians and their provincial government have created a world
class system of protected areas -- a system that not only represents the
broad range of natural ecosystems in the province, but also enhances the
quality of life of all its citizens. Through the Protected Areas Strategy
and a number of unique land use planning initiatives, the provincial
government has provided British Columbians with opportunities to identify
those representative and special places that might be considered part of
the protected areas system. The result is that, by the year 2000, B.C.
will have met the challenge set by the United Nations to protect 12
percent of the province's land base.
Now that the selection and designation phase of protected areas
expansion is well under way, focus has shifted to developing our ability
to sustain the growing system into the future. Few can dispute the value
of the legacy that we in this province have created. How we go about
protecting and managing it, however, has yet to be resolved-a challenge we
all must share.
British Columbians want effective wilderness protection and higher
standards of park stewardship -yet they also want to be able to use parks
for recreational purposes. Determining how we can satisfy expectations
across the spectrum is therefore one of the main challenges to sustaining
the legacy. Another is finding ways to cope with park use increases that
are occurring without proportionate increases in planning and management
budgets. Fiscal pressures exist in all jurisdictions, but if British
Columbians want to protect their park legacy, now is the time to consider
creative options for securing and diversifying fiscal resources, while
sustaining the values within our protected areas. And no less a challenge
is identifying how we can build on community stewardship and public
involvement-including the work of dedicated BC Parks staff, volunteers,
recreation and heritage committees, non-government organizations,
educational institutions and thousands of individuals across the
province-to help us manage protected areas over the long term. Such
alliances amongst concerned British Columbians will be essential to the
development of a community-driven, made-in-B.C. vision for the planning
and management of our parks.
Recognizing these challenges, the government initiated B.C.'s Park
Legacy Project in August 1997, and appointed us-the Legacy Panel-to carry
it out. The Park Legacy Project is a public consultation process.
Reporting directly to the Honourable Cathy McGregor, Minister of
Environment, Lands and Parks, we have as our primary duties the tasks of
providing government with practical, community-based perspectives and
making recommendations for enhancing long-term planning and management of
protected areas, while building stronger relationships between communities
and provincial parks.
We have been consulting with British Columbians through open houses and
workshops, inviting input from all interested sectors and park users.
Youth, schools and universities have also been encouraged to participate.
Numerous individual submissions and written briefs have been received. We
have also conducted our own research on theme-related topics.
Our focus has been on five main themes: vision, planning, management,
resourcing and public involvement. Our work is also centred on the
provincial, system-wide management of existing parks; we are not examining
park-specific issues, nor are we involved in the selection or designation
of new protected areas. We have been assured that the government's
commitment to provide legislative and policy leadership will not be
diminished by the Legacy Project: parks will remain public assets and
resource extraction and inappropriate commercialism will not be permitted.
We are reporting in three phases. This Interim Report signals the
completion of the first phase. Draft recommendations will be presented in
a second report, due in October. A final report will be prepared for
presentation to government by January 31, 1999. Public review of this
Interim Report and the Draft Report in October are critical components in
enabling us to complete this work.
This report acknowledges the accomplishment that is B.C.'s protected
areas system and profiles the challenges that British Columbians face in
sustaining the legacy in the future. Section One of the report presents a
proposed vision for the future of protected areas, some key concepts that
should guide planning and management, and a number of preliminary
proposals for future directions that address the identified challenges. An
overview of public advice from the input phase is included in Section Two.
Using what we learned from public input and from independent research,
the Panel has outlined six primary vision components. Each component is
described in terms of "Key Concepts", as well as "Proposed Future State of
the Protected Areas System" that the component envisions. These proposed
vision components provide the foundation for every other part of this
Interim Report and are described below:
- The ecological integrity of protected areas is paramount.
Public Trust in Perpetuity
- Protected areas are maintained in perpetuity as a public trust.
- Protected areas contribute to personal and social well-being through
health, recreation and economic benefits that depend on places where
ecological integrity is maintained.
Cornerstones in a Provincial Landscape
- Protected areas are integrated components of a province-wide
landscape of natural and cultural heritage.
Appreciation and Understanding
- British Columbians appreciate the value of protected areas
- and continue to increase their understanding of these places.
Public Support and Stewardship
- Communities, individuals and organizations support and engage with
government in the stewardship of protected areas.
Relationship with First NationsWe also recognize the inherent
role of First Nations in the future of protected areas, and believe that
cooperative management agreements will bring benefits for First Nations
and protected areas, even before the establishment of formal modern-day
Planning, Management and EducationPeople said they wanted human
activities within protected areas to be in keeping with the maintenance of
park values, and that they expected our best knowledge of ecosystem
management to be applied to planning and management efforts in order to
maintain the integrity of these areas. They also reiterated the importance
of education in allowing us to sustain a viable protected areas system
into the future. The following key concepts and preliminary proposals,
listed by subject, summarize the main ideas we heard and some of the
direction we are considering.
System Monitoring and EvaluationThere is a need for B.C. to take
a broad view of its protected areas system and to recognize that every
area cannot meet every need. Rather, the goals of the system can only be
met through the cumulative contribution of all of our protected areas.
Consequently, the Panel is examining the need for a continued system-level
perspective on achieving the vision, and the need for clear means of
monitoring and evaluating the achievement of system goals over time.
Classifying Protected AreasA complex set of protected area
classifications has evolved over the past 10 years. Simplification of
terms and categories could lead to improved understanding of the system
and increased accountability in management. The Panel is examining the
need for greater clarity and simplicity in classifications and zoning,
particularly as these reflect ecosystem management priorities.
Plans for Individual Protected Areas
Plans for managing individual protected areas are essential for the
protection of values, to provide long-term direction and certainty, and to
provide an adaptive capability for facing future management challenges.
Nevertheless, there is a significant backlog of protected areas requiring
management plans. Completion of such plans is a critical factor in
sustaining the system. Several alternatives could be considered to advance
the management planning program, including adopting plan templates for
application in areas with similar attributes, addressing priority areas
first, expanding planning capacity, preparing a single plan for several
areas and, where appropriate, developing streamlined "management direction
There should be a clear linkage between protected area management plans
and the people, process and results of the land use planning that put
these protected areas in place.
Public Involvement in Planning and Management
Appropriate, affordable public involvement is required in protected
areas planning and management. Public involvement contributes to the
building of connections between individuals, communities and their
protected areas. A key element is government's obligation to involve
interested and affected groups and individuals in the preparation of
protected area management plans. In addition, involving individuals,
groups and communities in the operation of protected areas builds
stewardship and is an important part of ensuring the park legacy is
Engaging youth in park management and environmental awareness
activities may gain life-long supporters, as well as result in the
tangible benefits of specific, in-park projects.
Linkages with Surrounding Land and Resource Uses
Protected areas are subject to influences from surrounding land uses
and, in turn, influence what takes place on adjacent lands. Consequently,
protected areas must be managed in the context of their relationship with
the rest of the landscape. Collaboration is required between land managers
and owners if cross-boundary concerns such as wildlife movements, the
integrity of ecological processes and access management are to be
effectively dealt with. This could entail protocols and formal mechanisms
to ensure proper management of adjacent lands and the recognition of
habitat linkages between protected areas.
The Panel is suggesting that protected areas be managed to maintain
ecological integrity and that human use be consistent with that priority.
An ecosystem-based approach would encourage innovative ecological
management practices, stimulating or allowing certain natural events that
may have played a role in the origin of some ecosystems. Vegetation
management could occur in most protected areas for reasons of public
safety and reconditioning of habitat.
Managing Recreational Use
Protected areas provide opportunities for the public to pursue a wide
range of activities, supported by a variety of services and facilities.
Most people agree that every area cannot support every use, and they
recognize the need to determine appropriate uses for each area.
Nevertheless, there are strong and differing opinions surrounding the
appropriate uses of protected areas, and public expectations diverge as to
which activities should be allowed in a park.
Controversy exists over the impacts of use on ecosystems, conflicts
between users, rights of access to public lands, levels of infrastructure,
and commercial development. The Panel is examining the need for management
priorities that reflect the vision for our use and enjoyment of protected
areas, and is considering the need for criteria related to:
- sensitivity of park ecosystems
- quality of experience for a variety of users
- uniqueness and significance of park values
- availability of recreational opportunities
- attitude and behaviour of recreationists
- site and facility design
- use-related information and research, and
- enforcement and penalties for non-compliance with
The management of commercial uses in parks is also controversial. While
some commercial uses may be better suited to park environments than
others, the Panel generally agrees that:
industrial uses should not be permitted in parks; inappropriate
commercialism should not be permitted in parks; and large-scale,
facility-dependent tourism developments should be located outside of parks
on nearby lands or in nearby communities.
Locating large-scale commercial developments outside of protected areas
could allow many communities to benefit from their close proximity to
parks, while minimizing impacts on park environments.
Managing and Maintaining Facilities
Downward pressures on available resources have resulted in less money
for facility construction and upkeep, raising questions about the ability
to protect current investments and public safety, and to provide adequate
recreational infrastructure. Alternatives for addressing these problems
include allocating more resources to facility maintenance, adopting a
park-sensitive private sector investment policy, and locating facilities
outside of parks. There may also be limited opportunities to transfer
infrastructure to other levels of government in areas where values are
deemed to be locally, rather than provincially, significant.
Education and ResearchParks offer education and research
opportunities that cannot be provided anywhere else. Being in these
special places, people told us, fosters appreciation of their values. In
this respect, families, clubs and tourism operators deserve credit for
raising public awareness of park values. At the same time, policies and
programs for research, education and interpretation reflect our societal
commitment to maintaining the legacy and reinforce the unique experience
that parks provide. Learning, supported by policies and programs, has been
the focus of Panel discussion. Some opportunities for improving education
and research lie in hands-on interpretive programs, curriculum in schools,
partnerships with educational institutions, interpretation partnerships
with volunteers and First Nations, training for park users, and
cross-boundary ecosystem research projects.
While the Panel believes that resources must be diversified and
increased, we also feel that future efforts to increase revenue must be in
the context of protection of ecological integrity. The issue is how best
to provide the human and financial resources necessary to ensure
ecological integrity and standards of management for the system in the
We suggest, as a general principle, that public funds be invested in
delivering the public good, and that the costs of providing the services
and facilities that are of primarily private benefit be borne by the user.
Other suggested resourcing criteria include stability in funding, assured
public access to recreational opportunities, retention of revenues within
the system, equitable pricing for services, and limits on
Alternative sources of support are described along a continuum that
defines contributions to the protected areas system in terms of societal
benefits, from public good to private benefit. At one end of this
continuum, public benefits are derived from contributions originating in
government expenditures from General Revenue or from other government
sources such as directed taxes, inter-agency transfers, or cost savings
through decommissioning or transfer of infrastructure.
At the other end of the continuum, toward private benefit, support for
the system could be generated through a range of user fees and earned
income from commercial operations, merchandizing, partnerships,
appropriate sponsorships, advertising or investment opportunities.
The other significant sector of support is through benevolent
contributions to the system, which could take the form of corporate and
individual donations, bequeathments, non-governmental fundraising,
memberships, revolving funds or interest-free loans, donations of land,
materials or equipment, or "in kind" contributions, such as volunteer
A multi-faceted approach to resourcing will be necessary to provide
adequate and stable resources over time-one that draws on support from
non-government sources, but also relies on adequate government funding to
reflect the public's commitment to protected areas. If resourcing issues
are not addressed, the risk increases that natural values will be damaged,
infrastructure will deteriorate, and the quality of park user experiences
Given the adjustments the Panel is contemplating for protected areas
planning, management and resourcing, we are also considering the future
requirements and options for administering the system. Assessment to this
point suggests that any future governance model should:
- confirm the government's role as trustee of the system in
- formalize the responsibility of citizens to be involved in planning,
management and monitoring of the system;
- permit a multi-faceted approach to revenue generation and retention;
- be accountable, transparent and innovative.
Some structural possibilities that follow from these requirements
- a central agency responsible for system administration;
- an organized network for citizen engagement that might include
provincial or district advisory groups;
- a coordination mechanism that links stewardship, revenue generation
and citizen participation;
- a foundation or other mechanism to receive benevolent contributions;
- a means of ensuring inter-agency coordination for planning and
Assessing the Need for Legislative Change
The Panel was asked to consider whether or not there may be a need to
amend the legislation base for the protected areas system. While we have
not concluded the extent to which legislative changes may be necessary, we
do recognize that some fine tuning may be required to address a number of
the issues we have heard and the preliminary proposals we are considering
Such changes would be recommended in the spirit of strengthening the
legislation's ability to define and preserve the integrity of the
protected areas system.
Some of the ideas discussed in this Interim Report may ultimately
require amendments to current legislation. These topics include the
emphasis on maintaining ecological integrity, the reference to parks as a
public trust, and the potential for adopting new governance structures.
More detailed assessment is required.
An alternative that may be more suited to a number of protected areas
planning and management requirements could be to house certain
requirements in regulations (such as requirements for management planning)
rather than in legislation.