CPAWS Responds to Parks Canada’s Announcement of Public Consultation on the Proposed Icefields Trail
Alberta – In a News Release today, Parks Canada announced that it will be consulting with Canadians on the proposed “Icefields Trail” project, a new bike and walking trail from Jasper to the Columbia Icefield. This project was announced with no prior public discussion in the 2016 federal budget, which allocated $65.9 million to the project, raising many questions regarding the origin of the project and the transparency of Parks Canada’s decision and project approval process.
CPAWS is pleased that Parks Canada has confirmed that this proposed project is not a done deal, and appreciates that Canadians and interested stakeholders will now be asked to participate in public consultations.
This proposal is inconsistent with the federal government's stated commitment to limit development in our national parks, and their legal obligation to put ecological integrity first in all aspects of park management. It is also contrary to Parks Canada’s obligations to protect species at risk in the park, as the proposed trail would fragment and destroy critical habitat for threatened woodland caribou and sensitive grizzly bears, and disturb and potentially displace wildlife through its use.
We are also concerned that the message released by Parks Canada today is misleading to the public. Parks Canada states that "the project is based on the Icefields Parkway Strategic Concept” and that it is part of the Jasper National Park management plan.
The Icefields Parkway Strategic Concept actually states that Parks Canada will:
- Review the needs of cyclists and develop options. Explore options to enhance opportunities.
To date, no options to enhance opportunities for cyclists have been presented by Parks Canada to the public or stakeholders for discussion. For example, it is unknown whether Parks Canada considered widening the shoulder on the existing Icefields Parkway, or examined options for bike paths to link gateway communities to the parks as alternatives.
There is no mention of the project in the Jasper National Park Management Plan.
The News Release indicates that the cost of the project has now jumped from $65.9 million to $86.4 million – a staggering sum considering that Parks Canada’s conservation staff and budget have been cut by 1/3rd since 2012, and education programs severely cut as well. Restoring conservation science and education capacity to enable Parks Canada to do more to conserve caribou and grizzly bears should take priority over building new paved corridors through their habitat.
There is also growing concern about Parks Canada’s capacity and resources to deal with the influx of visitors this year given the public’s access to free Discovery Passes, CPAWS believes that some of the $86.4 million would be better spent on providing shuttles and more staff on the ground to help manage visitors and protect the parks.
CPAWS will be calling on the Minister to reject the project and instead reinvest the $86.4 million in restoring science and conservation programs and capacity for Parks Canada as per the government's stated commitment to protect and conserve valuable wildlife and ecosystems. We are urging all Canadians to participate in the stakeholder engagement sessions and to voice their concerns about this proposal.
For more information or media contacts:
Alison Woodley, National Director, Parks Program, CPAWS National Office
613-569-7226 ext. 230
Alison Ronson, Executive Director, CPAWS Northern Alberta Chapter
780-328-3780 ext. 1
Anne Marie Syslak, Executive Director, CPAWS Southern Alberta Chapter