Protected areas are essential to conserving biodiversity. The Protected Areas Strategy (PAS), initiated by the Provincial Government in 1992, has designated 14.4% of BC as provincial parks and protected areas. In addition, areas protected under National Parks, conservation lands protected by some regional parks, Wildlife Management Areas and by non-government conservation organizations results in a total protected area of 16% of the province. However, this percentage of the land base is too small to maintain viable populations of many species. Therefore, the protected areas may be inadequate to prevent extinction of threatened species that occur primarily in low elevation areas where the land is privately owned.
Unfortunately, the resources available, in terms of land and funds, are insufficient to conserve all biodiversity. Therefore, a strategic plan is required to conserve as much of our unprotected biodiversity as possible. This requires the identification of provincial goals that coordinate conservation efforts of government and non-government organizations, and the general public. Development of provincial goals will require systematic inventories of species, especially in areas that have not been extensively surveyed, scientific research that examines biodiversity structure and function in unique ecosystems, classification of regional threats to biodiversity, and prioritization of regions for protection.
Priorities for conservation can be determined by identifying hotspots, gaps and complementary areas. Hotspots are areas with high species diversity or high numbers of rare or threatened species. Gaps are areas with species that are not already under protection. Complementary areas serve to complement protected areas by identifying new areas that contain the most unprotected species. The complementarity method identifies areas that represent the maximum amount of biodiversity in the minimum amount of areas. This is important given that resources are limited.