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.

 

Vision

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:

Ecological Integrity

  • The ecological integrity of protected areas is paramount.

Public Trust in Perpetuity

  • Protected areas are maintained in perpetuity as a public trust.

Human Well-being

  • 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 Nations

We 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 treaties.

 

Planning, Management and Education

People 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 Evaluation

There 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 Areas

A 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 statements."

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 maintained.

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.

 

Ecosystem Management

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 regulations.

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 Research

Parks 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.

 

Resourcing

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 future.

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 commercialism.

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 services.

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 will decline.

 

Governance

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 perpetuity;
  • 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; and
  • be accountable, transparent and innovative.

Some structural possibilities that follow from these requirements include:

  • 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; and
  • a means of ensuring inter-agency coordination for planning and management.

 

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.

 


Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks

B.C.'S PARK LEGACY PROJECT
PO Box 3760, Station CSC
Victoria, BC V8W 3Y6
Phone: (250) 387-1968
Fax:   (250) 952-6235

bcplp@pacificcoast.net

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