Further cuts result in just a handful of rangers overseeing an area the size of Denmark, Costa Rica and Switzerland combined.
Vancouver (13 July 2016) — The number of full-time (FT) park rangers in British Columbia has sunk to a low of just 7 individuals who are expected to patrol 14 million hectares of protected areas. The number of full-time rangers slumped from 27 in 2001, to 12 in 2009 to just 7 FT park rangers in April 2016.
B.C. has fewer park rangers than it has endangered spotted owls
The 7 full-time park rangers in B.C. have to patrol protected areas the combined size of Denmark (4.3 million ha), Costa Rica (5.1 million ha), and Switzerland (4.1 million ha) from October to April.
Auxiliary park rangers are hired in the summer months, but the season for these positions has been shortened significantly with some auxiliary rangers only being hired for 8 weeks. In 2009, there were 87 auxiliary rangers hired in the summer months. For a best case scenario in the summer there would be one ranger per 10 parks.
“We’ve hit a new low. We now have fewer park rangers than spotted owls in B.C.,” said Gwen Barlee, national policy director with the Wilderness Committee. “That is saying something, because spotted owls are one of the most endangered species in Canada and we are down to around a dozen in the wild. For the life of me, I can’t understand why the BC government is starving our provincial park system of the staffing and funding it needs to operate.”
Despite the growth of B.C.'s parklands, full-time ranger staffing is a quarter of what it was in 2011
British Columbia has over 1,000 parks and protected areas that provide a $392 million boost to the province’s GDP and support over 5,200 full-time jobs. Every dollar the B.C. government invests in the protected area system generates $8.42 in visitor expenditures.
Despite the economic benefits the operation budget for BC Parks is $31 million — $10 million less than it was in 2001.
“Park rangers are responsible for a wide range of duties — managing protected areas, enforcing laws and overseeing recreational services across the province,” says Stephanie Smith, B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) President. “Full-time park ranger staffing levels are a quarter of what they were in 2001, while B.C. parks and protected areas have grown. The provincial government needs to step up to the plate and protect British Columbia’s precious natural heritage.”
A series of unpopular measures, including allowing industrial research in parks, permitting logging and mining companies to apply to remove land from protected areas, and the poaching of an 800-year-old red cedar adjacent to the parking lot of Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park on Vancouver Island, has made the management of parks a hot-button issue for B.C.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE