Privatization of Parks,Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

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The provincial liberal government has made enormous efforts to privatize and commercialize B.C.’s parks. Changes include long-term private leases, public-private partnerships, commercial development such as restaurants, concessions, and proposed accommodation facilities within park boundaries.

There are new and increased user fees for parking, hiking and a $250/park fee for tour operators. BC and Mississippi are now the only jurisdictions in North America that do not have publicly funded interpretive programs.

Ecological integrity does not appear to be a priority for the BC government, despite the fact that 80% of British Columbians place protection of the environment and wildlife in parks as a top priority for BC Parks.

In November 2005, more than 17,000 signatures were presented to BC legislature in a petition opposing the privatization measures underway and those proposed such as private-for-profit resorts within park boundaries and logging in protected areas . Grizzly bears, mountain caribou and other wildlife and trails are easily affected by overuse and commercialization.

Private contractors now have permission to invest in new or additional facilities and services, they have greater operating freedoms, and more reliance on self-monitoring of standards. The BC Parks Act has been weakened without public input.

Over 60 organizations have signed on to a Declaration on the Principles of Parks, that define criteria for maintaining parks as enduring public legacies. These organizations, representing tens of thousands of British Columbians, are asking that there be no commercialization or private control of parks, and that parks be properly funded and maintained by the government.

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