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 showing the number of Environment Canada’s protected areas in British Columbia totalling 12 divided among  5 National Wildlife Areas (NWAS) and 7 Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBSs). Details can be found below. (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

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
IBA: Important Bird Area
WHSRN: Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
MAB: Biosphere reserve of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme

This table provides information on the national wildlife areas such as the name of the area, the year it was established, the size in hectares and notes.

National Wildlife Areas
No.NameYear establishedSize in hectaresNotes
1Alaksen NWA1976349
2Columbia NWA19781,007 
3Qualicum NWA197778
4Vaseux-Bighorn NWA1979753
5Widgeon Valley NWA1978125 
Total:2,312 

This table provides information on migratory bird sanctuaries such as the name of sanctuary, the year it was established, the size in hectares and notes. 

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries
No.NameYear establishedSize in hectaresNotes
1Christie Islet MBS19621 
2Victoria Harbour MBS1931134 
3George C. Reifel MBS1967376
4Nechako River MBS1944183 
5Shoal Harbour MBS1931143 
6Vaseux Lake MBS1923353
7Esquimalt Lagoon MBS19231,841 
Total:3,031 

 

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 National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries. 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