By Andrew Mitchell
The provincial government had an Earth Day present for the people of B.C. last week, establishing 41 new conservancies covering 165,030 hectares of land and marine foreshore, while expanding the boundaries of 16 existing parks and three conservancies.
“The creation of these protected areas is taking place in the broader context of a land and resource management plan that will also provide certainty for land use to support economic opportunities for coastal communities,” said Pat Bell, Minister of Agriculture and Lands.
As well, the province created two new provincial parks in the Kootenays, Gilpin Grasslands Park and Boothman’s Oxbow Park, and one park in Skeena, Anderson Flats Park, while upgrading one protected area to a park.
In the Sea to Sky region, the new amendment to the B.C. Parks Act includes the following expansions:
• Brackendale Eagles Park outside of Squamish will be expanded by 43.3 hectares as a result of a private land acquisition. The park, recognized as an important wintering area for bald eagles, is now 765 hectares in size.
• Brandywine Falls Park, located 12 km south of Whistler, will be expanded by 11 hectares to protect habitat that is home to both red and blue listed species. The focal point of the park will continue to be the 70-metre waterfall, with a new total area of 150 hectares.
• Murrin Park, just south of Squamish, will be expanded by 10 hectares, compensating for sections of Stawamus Chief Park that were lost due to the Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project and to protect blue and red listed species. The total area of the park is now 32 hectares.
• Tantalus Park to the north of Squamish will be expanded by 71 hectares as a result of a private land acquisition. This wilderness park, which can only be accessed by crossing the Squamish River, is now 11,432 hectares.
The majority of new conservancies are located in the North Coast and Central Coast areas, and were created following Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) processes in those regions.
The Sea to Sky LRMP was completed in draft form in 2006, but is still being discussed by provincial ministries in relation to land use plans submitted by the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations. Once that stage is complete there will be a final public review process.