Canada’s parks facing growing threats to their ecological health: CPAWS
Ottawa – In the run-up to Canada Parks Day on the 3rd Saturday in July, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is releasing a sobering report about the growing threats our parks are facing. The report highlights the dangers to our parks due to funding cuts; the loss of science and ecological monitoring capacity; and the growth of inappropriate developments within and adjacent to many current and proposed parks.
“Overall, the trend is extremely discouraging this year. Parks Canada has been hit hard by funding cuts, and is eliminating 638 staff positions across the country. In turn this means that close to 30 percent of all the scientists and technicians restoring and monitoring the ecological health of our parks will lose their jobs. The cuts also mean many parks are cutting their seasons shorter, opening the door to inappropriate use of them with no supervision,” says CPAWS National Executive Director Eric Hebert-Daly.
“Not only are our parks facing growing threats to their ecological health from the funding cuts, the tourism sector and nearby communities are also facing economic harm. The government’s own research shows that for every $1 spent on parks, $5 is contributed to Canada’s gross domestic product. Why isn’t the government recognizing the important benefits that result from investing in our parks?” adds Hebert-Daly.
Rise in inappropriate commercial activities
In addition to the dangers of funding cuts to our parks’ ecological health and to local communities, CPAWS’ report also highlights a notable rise in approvals of inappropriate recreation and tourism activities within parks. These activities pose threats to our park’s ecological health and are of dubious value in increasing people’s appreciation of nature.
Examples of the trend towards inappropriate developments include Parks Canada’s approval last year of large scale summer use of Banff’s Mt. Norquay ski area– an important habitat area for grizzly bears and other wildlife; a massive new glass and concrete viewing platform approved this year for Jasper National Park; and a decision last month to solicit proposals to re-build the long-closed downhill ski area in Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park.
Industrial threats mount
The report also highlights inappropriate industrial activities within or adjacent to national and provincial parks, including repeated efforts to re-open Yukon’s Tombstone Provincial Park to mining exploration; a mine progressing that is encircled by Nahanni National Park Reserve; continued logging in Ontario’s Algonquin Park; forestry activities surrounding Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park; and new deep water oil and gas exploration off the coast of Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park.
CPAWS has also highlighted concerns about the trend in proposing boundaries for new wilderness parks that exclude important parts of the ecosystems they are supposed to protect. Examples include a proposed new park in Nunavik where habitat for the world’s only population of freshwater seals is being excluded because of hydro-electric interest; and Manitoba’s recently announced Little Limestone Lake Park that excludes areas of potential mining interest.
“Unfortunately all of this bad news overshadows the few spots of good news we have seen regarding parks across the country this year,” adds Hebert Daly. The good news includes a federal commitment to create Rouge National Urban Park outside of Toronto, and Nova Scotia’s creation of a large new wilderness reserve in the Chignecto area.
CPAWS has been issuing an annual report on the state 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 some inappropriate developments that were starting to be noted.
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, 55,000 supporters and hundreds of volunteers, CPAWS works collaboratively with governments, local communities, industry and indigenous peoples to protect our country’s amazing natural places.