British Columbia

In British Columbia, approximately 14.2 million hectares (14.4% of the province as of 2010) are designated as protected. Environment Canada maintains 12 protected areas in British Columbia, including 5 National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) and 7 Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBSs), comprising over 5 thousand hectares of the province's protected lands and waters.

Map of Environment Canada's Protected Areas in British Columbia

Map of protected areas in British Columbia (4) Nechako River MBS (6) Vaseux Lake MBS (1) Christie Islet MBS (3) George C. Reifel MBS (5) Shoal Harbour MBS (7) Esquimalt Lagoon MBS (2) Victoria Harbour MBS (3) Qualicum NWA (1) Alaksen NWA (5) Widgeon NWA (4) Vaseux-Bighorn NWA (2) Columbia NWA

Long description for the Map

Map showing the Environment Canada's Protected Areas in British Columbia boundaries. Including 5 NWAs and 7 MBSs.

Learn more about British Columbia...

List of Protected Areas in British Columbia

The tables below contain information about the NWAs and MBSs shown on the map above. In addition to the name, year of establishment, and size of each protected area, the tables indicate how these sites fit into national and international networks of conservation areas. The following entities may be noted:

Ramsar: Wetland of International Importance

Important Bird Area (IBA)

Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN)

Biosphere reserve of the The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB)

National Wildlife Areas

Spiers Lake NWA picture

Photo: Blair Hammond © Environment Canada
Columbia NWA.

British Columbia
NWA NameYear establishedSize in hectares
Alaksen NWA1976326
Columbia NWA19781,002
Qualicum NWA197779
Vaseux-Bighorn NWA1979804
Widgeon Valley NWA1978125

Migratory Birds Sanctuary

Short-eared owl picture

Photo: Steve Cannings © Environment Cananda
Vaseux Lake MBS

British Columbia
MBS NameYear establishedSize in hectares
Christie Islet MBS19621
Victoria Harbour MBS19311,841
George C. Reifel MBS1967376
Nechako River MBS1944183
Shoal Harbour MBS1931143
Vaseux Lake MBS1923370
Esquimalt Lagoon MBS1923134

Access and Permitting

Although access to NWAs is not restricted, the primary purpose of these areas is to protect and conserve wildlife and their habitats, and therefore most NWAs are not equipped with facilities to accommodate public visitation. Unless otherwise posted, all recreational activities are prohibited within NWAs.

Although access to most MBSs is not restricted either, the primary intent of these sanctuaries is to protect migratory birds, and therefore hunting, as well as disturbing or molesting migratory birds, their eggs, nests or habitat, is prohibited.

A permit may be obtained from the Minister of the Environment authorizing the conduct of certain activities in an NWA or MBS, if the Minister or delegate is of the opinion that the proposed activity:

  • will not interfere with the conservation of wildlife; or
  • is consistent with the purpose for which the protected area was established; and
  • is consistent with the management plan for the protected area.

Contact Information

Additional information on entry, prohibited activities and permits in Environment Canada's protected areas is provided on the Management and Activities web pages of the NWAs and MBSs. For more information on Environment Canada's protected areas in British Columbia, please contact the regional Environment Canada office:

Environment Canada - Pacific and Yukon Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Ecosystem Conservation
5421 Robertson Road
Delta, British Columbia
V4K 3N2
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: enviroinfo@ec.gc.ca

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