Thousands of British Columbians are asking the provincial government to repeal Bill 4, the Park Amendment Act, as environmental groups are worried the bill threatens the integrity of the protected areas system in B.C.
Claire Ruddy, with the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE), said her organization was concerned enough about the legislation to write a letter to West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy.
Under the previous legislation, commercial activity wasn't allowed in small parks.
"Anything under 2,000 hectares was exempt from any kind of commercial activities and that's being removed," said Ruddy. "For us we have quite a few small pocket parks and that means they can be used for things like commercial filmmaking."
According to the amendment research and feasibility studies, activities that can now be permitted inside parks would include, "without limitation, the feasibility of the location, design, construction, use, maintenance, improvement or deactivation, of one or more of the following: a road or highway, a pipeline, a transmission line, a telecommunications project" and/or "a structure, improvement or work related" to any of the items listed above.
The impact of that kind of activity on a small park, said Ruddy, is significant.
According to Ruddy, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) has a team of people reviewing the new legislation and it plans on lobbying for changes to the wording. Information on the society's website indicates it's concerned park boundaries will be redrawn to accommodate energy pipelines.
Government documents, obtained in 2013 through a Freedom of Information request by the Wilderness Society, show the B.C. government is considering boundary changes to more than 30 parks, including for LNG pipelines and the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
Sturdy said the motivation for the amendment is mainly to accommodate research in parks around the province.
"The Park Act amendment will allow permits for researching and information gathering in regards to vegetation sampling, fish surveys and geo-technical studies," said Sturdy. "They could involve soil sampling for archeological assessments, collection of plant or animal specimens, or the installation of gauges and instruments to measure environmental things like stream flows."
He added there won't be drilling or road building in parks now that the Park Amendment has passed.
"The sky is not falling," Sturdy said from his office in Victoria at the Legislature.
More than 145,000 concerned people have signed an online petition on the progressive political advocacy site Sum of Us, calling on the provincial government to revoke the park amendment act. CPAWS has more than 8,000 signatures on its own digital petition to repeal the law and has received more than 4,000 letters to the government.