Over the past two decades, there has been an increase in protected areas within British Columbia. In 2016 we sit at approximately 15% of the provincial land base protected within approximately 1000 protected areas in provincial and federal jurisdictions. There is also a growing estate of regional and municipal parks that serve local populations providing health, recreation and ecological benefits to residents. In addition to the work by government agencies to manage parks and protected areas, there is a vibrant advocacy and research community within BC consisting of individuals from academia (both faculty and students), First Nations, non-governmental organizations, industry and private individuals.
Prior to 2006, initiatives to link researchers with PPA management lacked regional focus and did not facilitate ongoing communication between stakeholders. As a result, there was a need for a mechanism to facilitate collaboration between research and management initiatives. In 1998 and 2001, the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba respectively addressed this same need by establishing protected areas research forums (PRFOntario, PPARFManitoba). During the spring of 2005, representatives from major academic institutions in BC and provincial and federal parks agencies met in Victoria to propose a similar provincial forum modelled after the Ontario and Manitoba PPAR forums.
This initial meeting led to the fruition of the British Columbia Parks and Protected Areas Research Forum (BCPARF) with the University of Northern British Columbia acting as the forum’s initial host and Pamela Wright, Associate Professor in the Outdoor Recreation and Tourism program, served as the forum’s founding chair. Today BCPARF is co-chaired by Tory Stevens, Protected Areas Ecologist for BC Parks and Pam Wright/UNBC.
The goal of the forum is not to conduct research itself but to facilitate research and its application to parks and protected areas management.
Currently, BCPARF is governed loosely by a keen group of protected area agency and university representatives and centred largely around the conference organizing committee, with BC Parks taking a key leadership role.
The primary activities of BCPARF are the periodic conferences. We have held province-wide conferences in 2006 (Royal Roads University), 2008 (University of Northern British Columbia) 2011 conference (UBC), 2013 (Thompson Rivers University) and the upcoming 2016 conference at the University of Victoria. We try and rotate the conferences between the urbanized south and the hinterlands each time. Conferences are held the first week of December typically right at the end of classes. The standard format has been an evening keynote presentation followed by 1.5 days of conference consisting of plenary sessions and concurrent streams of presentations, posters, workshops and displays. Everyone is encouraged to present research ideas, management challenges, research findings or research in progress. Typical attendance (regardless of locations) has been between 150-200 individuals.