One step forward, two steps back for Canada’s parks: CPAWS’ 2013 State of Canada’s Parks Report
Ottawa – In the run-up to Canada’s Parks Day on the 3rd Saturday in July, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is releasing its 5th annual report on how Canada’s parks are faring. The report highlights some good news in the past year on creating new parks, including Tursujuq in Quebec announced in December – which is now Canada’s largest provincial park.
But CPAWS also warns that problematic trends continue, including inappropriate industrial and commercial developments, cutbacks to national parks and weakening commitments in some areas to expanding parklands. CPAWS has also identified opportunities across Canada where governments could take action to shift these trends in a more positive direction over the next year.
“One of our biggest concerns this year is a proposal to drill and ‘frack’ for oil within metres of Gros Morne National Park. If this proposal is approved, it will present a serious risk to park ecosystems. It will also jeopardize a thriving local tourism economy, and could put Gros Morne’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site at risk,” says CPAWS Parks Program Director Alison Woodley.
“We’re also starting to feel the impact of last year’s dramatic budget cuts on our national parks. Visitor seasons are now shorter in many parks. Important science and ecological restoration projects such as plans to reintroduce caribou and bison into Banff National Park are on hold. At the same time, inappropriate developments we warned about last year are now underway in our national parks, including plans for heavy summer use of sensitive grizzly habitat on Banff’s Mount Norquay and building the Glacier Discovery Walk in Jasper National Park,” adds Woodley.
CPAWS is also concerned that some provinces and territories are moving away from promises to create new parks and protected areas. “For example, the Yukon Territory has completely abandoned recommendations by a First Nations and territorial government-appointed planning commission to protect the Peel River watershed – one of the most spectacular wild watersheds left in the world – and is now proposing to open most of it up to industrial development,” says Woodley.
“And in New Brunswick, where only 3% of land is protected, the province is now long overdue in meeting a commitment it made last year to increase that percentage to 4.5% – not a spectacular leap forward but better than nothing – and now we fear even that minimal progress could be in jeopardy,” says Woodley.
Other bright spots in CPAWS’ report include major progress by Nova Scotia towards expanding its parks and protected areas system by 250,000 hectares, which would vault that province into second place nationally in protecting its lands and freshwater. And for the first time in decades, Saskatchewan announced the creation of a new provincial park earlier this year and committed to create more provincial parks, noting them as a cornerstone of the tourism industry. Manitoba also announced a new strategy this year to strengthen protection of many of its existing parks and create or expand up to 10 parks.
CPAWS has also identified opportunities for governments to take positive action on parks over the next year, which would help set a more positive direction for protecting Canada’s wilderness.
“Canada has some great opportunities to make progress on parks over the next few years. These include NWT’s East Arm of Great Slave Lake, Metro Toronto’s Rouge Valley, the headwaters of the South Nahanni River, BC’s highly threatened South Okanagan-Similkameen, southwest Alberta’s Castle Wilderness area and southwest Quebec’s Dumoine River area,” says Woodley.
“If governments move ahead, working with partners and building on the substantial work that has already been done, these are all places where we could see important new national and provincial parks and protected areas in the near future. That’s what we’ll be looking for in coming months,” says Woodley.
CPAWS has been issuing an annual report on the status of Canada’s parks since 2008. The first report lauded the rate of new parks creation by the federal government that year. Subsequent reports noted the slowdown in parks creation, the need to increase the number of marine protected areas, and the increase inappropriate developments. Last year’s report focused on the federal budget cuts to national parks and concerns about impacts on science and ecological monitoring capacity.
View full report at http://www.cpaws.org/uploads/pubs/parks/cpaws_parksreport_2013.pdf
CPAWS is Canada’s voice for wilderness. Since 1963 we’ve led in creating over two-thirds of Canada’s protected areas. That amounts to about half a million square kilometres – an area bigger than the entire Yukon Territory! Our vision is that Canada will protect at least half of our public land and water. As a national charity with 13 chapters, 65,000 supporters and hundreds of volunteers, CPAWS works collaboratively with governments, local communities, industry and indigenous peoples to protect our country’s amazing natural places.