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Summary of the Parks and Protected Areas System

Since the establishment of Strathcona, the first provincial park in 1911, the parks and protected areas system has grown to over 1000 protected areas, covering over 14 million hectares, 14.4% of the province.

Protected Area Overview - As of July 28, 2014

Designation Number Area (ha)
Class A Parks
627
10,489,706
Class B Parks
2
3,778
Class C Parks
14
495
Recreation Areas
2
5,929
Conservancies
156
2,998,507
Designations under the Environment and Land Use Act
80
383,828
Ecological Reserves
148
160,452
Total
1,029
14,042,695

 

Read more about the Parks and Protected Areas system here. [PDF 677KB]

Designation Description

Class A Park

  • Class A parks are dedicated to the preservation of their natural environments for the inspiration, use and enjoyment of the public. A Class A park is Crown land designated under the Park Act or by the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act whose management and development are constrained by the Park Act. Sections 8 and 9 of the Park Act are the most pertinent in this regard, and direct that a park use permit must not be issued respecting an interest in land or natural resources “unless, in the opinion of the minister, to do so is necessary to preserve or maintain the recreational values of the park involved.”
  • Class A parks can be established by two means. Class A parks can be established by either order in council under the Park Act or by inclusion in a schedule to the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act.

Class B Park

  • A Class B park is Crown land designated under the Park Act whose management and development is constrained by the Act. They differ from Class A parks only with respect to the “test” that must be met in order to issue a park use permit. Sections 8 and 9 of the Park Act are the most pertinent in this regard, and direct that a park use permit must not be issued respecting an interest in land or natural resources “unless, in the opinion of the minister, to do so is not detrimental to the recreational values of the park concerned.” Accordingly, Class B parks may permit a broader range of activities and uses provided that such uses are not detrimental to the recreational values of the park.
  • Class B parks are established by order in council.

Class C Park

  • A Class C Park is Crown land designated under the Park Act whose management and development is constrained by the Park Act. The requirements for the management of Class C parks with respect to restricting the alienation of interests and protecting natural resources is identical to those for Class A parks.
  • Class C parks are established by order in council.
  • A Class C park must be managed by a local board appointed by the minister.

Conservancy

  • A conservancy is Crown land, designated under the Park Act or by the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act, whose management and development is constrained by the Park Act.
  • The conservancy designation explicitly recognizes the importance of these areas to First Nations for social, ceremonial and cultural uses;
  • Commercial logging, mining and hydroelectric power generation, other than local run-of-the-river projects, are prohibited in a conservancy;
  • Conservancies provide for a wider range of low impact, compatible economic opportunities than a Class A park. These economic opportunities must still not restrict, prevent or hinder the conservancy from meeting its intended purpose with respect to maintaining biological diversity, natural environments, First Nations social, ceremonial and cultural uses, and recreational values;and,
  • Conservancies can be designated by two means. Conservancies can be established by order in council under the Park Act or by inclusion in a schedule to the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act. Presently, all conservancies are established by inclusion in schedules to the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act .

Recreation Area

  • A recreation area is defined as Crown land reserved or set aside for public recreational use.
  • Recreation areas differ from parks in that the minister has greater discretion in issuing park use permits.
  • The recreation area designation has evolved over time. In the past, prior to consideration for designation as Class A parks, lands had to be open for a minimum interim period of ten years to permit mineral resource evaluation. During this time, primacy was given to conservation and recreation values as no other industrial activities were permitted. With the introduction of the Protected Areas Strategy and strategic land use planning processes, all recreation areas are being evaluated from both a protected area value and an economic opportunity perspective to determine whether the area should be “upgraded” to full protected area status (e.g. Class A park) or returned to integrated resource management lands.
  • Recreation areas are established by order in council.

Ecological Reserves

  • The purpose of the Ecological Reserve Act is to reserve Crown land for ecological purposes, including the following areas:
    • Areas suitable for scientific research and educational purposes associated with studies in productivity and other aspects of the natural environment;
    • Areas that are representative examples of natural ecosystems in British Columbia;
    • Areas that serve as examples of ecosystems that have been modified by human beings and offer an opportunity to study the recovery of the natural ecosystem from modification;
    • Areas where rare or endangered native plants and animals in their natural habitat may be preserved; and,
    • Areas that contain unique and rare examples of botanical, zoological or geological phenomena.
  • The legislation guiding the program is very restrictive and all extractive activities are prohibited. As such, ecological reserves are considered to be the areas most highly protected and least subject to human influence.
  • Ecological reserves can be established by two means: (i) by order in council under the Ecological Reserve Act or (ii) by inclusion in schedules to the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act.

Designations under the Environment and Land Use Act

  • The Environment and Land Use Act is a broad piece of legislation which empowers a Land Use Committee of Cabinet to ensure that all aspects of the preservation and maintenance of the natural environment are fully considered in the administration of land use and resource development. Orders can be made respecting the environment or land use.
  • Protected area designations under the Environment and Land Use Act are by order in council.
  • Management direction for protected areas is provided by any special conditions included in the establishing order in council and specified provisions of the Park Act and Park, Conservancy and Recreation Area Regulation as identified in the order in council.