Auditor General finds environmental enforcement capacity in B.C. Parks
insufficient: lack of funding and resources to blame, says BCGEU

VANCOUVER, Aug. 24 /CNW/ - Environmental monitoring and enforcement in the BC Parks system is critically lacking, the B.C. Auditor General said in a report released yesterday. "Sadly, these findings are not news to our members who work in BC Parks as conservation officers, scientific technical officers, or as parks personnel," says Byron Goerz, BCGEU Environmental, Technical and Operational Component chair.

Proper environmental stewardship in B.C. parks requires a compliance and enforcement capacity that is now lacking. "Environmental workers are the public's "eyes and ears" on the ground in B.C. parks. They are committed to their jobs and the duty of protecting our wilderness, but simply lack real capacity to fulfill their mandate. The Auditor General's findings are entirely consistent with what our members have been saying for years," says Goerz. The Auditor General released a report on the conservation of ecological integrity in B.C. parks and protected areas on August 23.

Environmental monitoring and enforcement activities flagged as inadequate by the Auditor General were subject to budget cuts, partial or complete office closures, and severe staffing cuts between 2001 and 2004, according to a report by West Coast Environmental Law with the evocative title "Please Hold. Someone Will Be With You." The 2004 report documented that:

* there was one full-time Park staff at B.C.'s Manning Park for every 858,154 visitors to the popular park, a three-hour drive west of Vancouver;

* Alberta had more than double the number of conservation officers on the ground than B.C.,

* Saskatchewan, a province with less than a quarter of B.C.'s population, had 56 percent more staff devoted to environmental protection.

Since then, the situation has only gotten worse, with repeated small budget cuts to B.C. Parks. Between 2008 and 2010, the government cut the budget for parks and protected areas by another $7 million. And the March 2010 Service Plan for the Ministry of Environment suggests that government has no intention of spending any more to protect B.C. Parks before 2013.

"As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of B.C. Parks next year, the government needs to listen to the auditor general and do more to protect our parks and natural reserves. This is about so much more than defending public sector jobs, this is about conservation and environmental responsibility," says Goerz.

SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

For further information: For further information:

Oliver Rohlfs, BCGEU Communications, (604) 291-9611

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