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Progress on Canada’s parks slows in 2009

New report marks Canada’s Parks Day, July 18th

Ottawa – In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, its second annual review of the state of Canada’s parks, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) reports that the pace of new parks creation slowed significantly in the past 12 months compared to  2008, which it had hailed as a “banner year”.

Download the 2009 Parks Report (PDF)

Despite this year’s slowdown, there were still some bright spots, including final protection for over 35,000 km2 of national park and historic site lands in the Northwest Territories, an end to logging in all but one of Manitoba’s provincial parks, and the creation of new provincial parks and nature reserves in British Columbia, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

The bad news is that Canada is lagging even further behind than last year in meeting its commitment to establishing a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2012 under the Convention on Biodiversity, with not one new MPA announced in the past 12 months.

On the “ugly” side, CPAWS is reporting a lack of progress in addressing problems in several parks where industrial or commercial activities within or close to their boundaries are threatening to harm the sensitive ecosystems the parks were intended to protect. 

GOOD NEWS – More parks created, regulations improved

In the NWT, the final expanded boundaries of Nahanni National Park Reserve became law last month, increasing the size of the park six-fold to over 30,000 km2, making it Canada’s third largest national park, greater in size than Banff and Jasper parks combined.

Manitoba’s decision to end logging in all but one of its provincial parks last November was also hailed as extremely good news by CPAWS, coming after years of advocacy by many organizations and citizens. The regulation will apply to all future parks in the province.

In British Columbia, the province created over 11,000 km2 of new parks and nature reserves within the Great Bear Rainforest earlier this year.

CPAWS also welcomed continued progress by Ontario to protect over half of its northern Boreal forest by introducing the Far North Planning Act in June, and an announcement by Quebec Premier Charest last fall that he would protect half of that province’s Boreal forest above the 49th parallel.

“Ultimately we expect these historic announcements in Ontario and Quebec to lead to creation of new protected areas,” says CPAWS spokesperson Ellen Adelberg.

BAD NEWS – Sensitive ecological areas still lacking protection

Sensitive eco-systems in many parts of the country that have long been proposed as sites for parks still suffer from either no legal protection, or designations that are too weak to protect their ecological integrity.

One example is Alberta’s spectacular Castle wilderness in the province’s southwest, where rampant motorized recreation is causing harm, and clear-cut logging is slated to begin this winter. “We’ve been urging the province to create a new provincial park in this area for years, but we’ve seen little progress,” says Greg Belland, executive director of CPAWS Southern Alberta chapter. 

The group also highlights the national capital region’s Gatineau Park, Nova Scotia’s Chignecto Game Sanctuary and B.C.’s south Okanagan-Similkameen region area as examples of areas containing special ecosystems that are in great danger due to human development activities.

“All of these amazing natural areas have been proposed for strict protection as parks for years. They are within close proximity to Canadian cities, but unless they’re better protected, future generations will never have the chance to experience their natural treasures,” says Adelberg.

THE UGLY – Risk of degradation caused by human practices increased

CPAWS also notes that there has been no change since last year in restricting logging, which is still permitted within nearly 80% or Ontario’s Alonquin Park. Proposals for mining activities in British Columbia’s Flathead Valley also continue to threaten the adjacent Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

“While nearly 80% of the public opposes logging in provincial parks, the practice continues in Algonquin, and the logging roads there would extend to Florida and back if laid out in a straight line,” says Evan Ferrari of CPAWS- Wildlands League.

Quebec’s Mont Orford Park is still missing lands that the province removed from it in 2006 and plans to double its size have not advanced.

Point Pelee and Fundy National Parks, despite their fame, are losing native wildlife species due to human activities on adjacent lands. Efforts to expand these parks, which would increase chances for the survival of their ecosystems, have so far been stalled.

In every province and territory, CPAWS is working with other organizations, First Nations and governments to create more protected areas that will conserve our extraordinary wilderness heritage.

For interviews, contact:
Ellen Adelberg (613) 569-7226 x234

View full report, related map and video at