Union campaign lampoons park staffing with sasquatches
Sasquatches may be rare, but B.C. Parks rangers are an endangered species, says the BCGEU.
Ahead of the first long weekend of summer, the union is launching a campaign, saveBCparks.ca, criticizing $10 milllion in budget cuts to the B.C. Parks system.
Comical campaign ads depict a sasquatch standing next to a ranger, implying rangers are rarer than the mythical beast.
The ads claim that the third-largest parks system in North America has been squeezed by a 60 per cent drop in park rangers and the loss of resources such as vehicles, fuel and travel budgets. Only 10 rangers remain to enforce park regulations across 32 million hectares of parkland.
The union wants government to restore funding to 2001 levels, roughly $40 million annually.
“We’re asking the government to back up to the modest levels we had in 2001,” said Byron Goerz, who chairs the related component of the BCGEU. “We also have seasonals, but even those were cut in half from the 2001 levels. It’s also about the resources for the few staff that remain.”
Environmental groups have also been critical of cutbacks in provincial park funding that they say make parkland more vulnerable to damage and, potentially, destruction by fires started by visitors.
“Our park system is vast and people have to be reminded that it’s more than the campsites they see,” Goerz said, citing trail systems and land management as two concerns.
The system pays for itself in terms of visitor and tourism spinoffs, he said. For every $1 invested in provincial parks, $10 is put into nearby communities.
Environment Minister Terry Lake said the union is playing fast and loose with the figures.
“They make it sound like nobody’s in B.C. Parks and that’s simply not true,” Lake said. “That’s disingenuous. There may be 10 full-time rangers in the middle of winter. In summer there are 79 park rangers around the province and over 700 employees of park facility operators.”
Those are private operators, representing a policy shift toward private-sector involvement in provincial parks, he noted.
Despite restraint, the government increased the capital budget for B.C. Parks by $3 million, Lakes said. That allows for a string of maintenance projects this season. In this region, Herald Provincial Park on Shuswap Lake is undergoing $265,000 in campground improvements.