Theft of 800 year-old cedar on Vancouver Island highlights lack of parks staff
BURNABY, BC, May 18, 2012 /CNW/ - The B.C. government's announcement of an additional $3 million capital funding for B.C. Parks, while welcome, is only a small fraction of needed re-investment, and does nothing to address the critical lack of staff, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union said today.
"Our parks can't take any more neglect," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker. "The lack of staff to carry out patrols in B.C. parks is resulting in damage to public parks and an increased risk of wildfires. The recent theft of a priceless 800 year-old cedar tree shows what happens when there are no eyes and ears on the ground."
Walker referred to a report in the Times Colonist newspaper today of the discovery of an 800 year-old, 2.75 metre cedar tree in the Carmanah Walbran provincial park.
Since 2001, the B.C. Liberal government has cut $10 million from the B.C. Parks operating budget - including $2.5 million in 2009 and more than $660,000 in 2011.
Only 10 full-time park rangers are left to cover the entire province. Sixty per cent of seasonal rangers' jobs were cut in 2009 - along with only 87 seasonal employees, who have had their work contracts cut to 4 months a year.
In the past 2 years, more than 40 park vehicle leases were terminated. Gasoline and travel budgets for park rangers to patrol B.C. parks were slashed. Some rangers and supervisors are forced to patrol parks by bus and taxi for lack of a vehicle. Some parks areas have no budget for toilet paper.
"The budget cuts starting in 2009 have cut so deep that parks staff are now unable to fully monitor and protect B.C. parks," says Walker. "And the government still has yet to address the recommendations of the 2010 Auditor General's report."
"The Premier has talked about pursuing a jobs strategy for B.C., with strategic investments in key sectors including tourism. Their own study shows that every dollar invested in our parks system generates $10 in tourism revenue. B.C.'s parks should be near the top of the government's priority list for re-investment."
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