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Reverse decision to re-open airstrips in Banff, Jasper national parks, CPAWS tells Baird

  • Published on Mar 15 2008 |
  • This article is tagged as: alberta

Ottawa - The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is calling on Environment Minister John Baird to immediately reverse the decision announced yesterday to “recommission” airstrips in two of Canada’s most famous national parks.

“The closure of the Banff airstrip was one of the first and most important responses of the federal government to the 1997 Bow Valley study which showed Banff is overdeveloped and that sensitive wildlife habitat in the area of the airstrip is deeply compromised.  To see the decision to close this environmentally damaging and inappropriate facility reversed is truly shocking” says Harvey Locke, Senior Conservation Advisor to CPAWS. 

“Neither of these airstrips is needed. Both areas are well served by highways and rail and have nearby airports. This is about enabling a privileged few to recreate in their personal aircraft in protected areas.” adds Locke. “It is especially wrong to open the Jasper airstrip to recreational use.”

Closing the airstrips was first identified as a priority in the 1987 park management plans for Banff and Jasper, which were tabled in Parliament.  The airstrips were legally closed in 1997 after the Banff Bow Valley Study highlighted the intense threats posed by commercial development and infrastructure, including the airstrips, to the ecological health of the mountain parks.  The next step to be taken was to decommission the airstrips.

There was no advance warning of the surprise decision that was issued before a week of holidays to CPAWS and other conservation groups that have worked for decades to protect the famous parks.  The policy reversal also flies in the face of an extensive Parks Canada study which called for the anomalous airstrips to be decommissioned.

“The ecology and visitor experiences of two of the world’s greatest national parks which are dedicated to the Canadian public are being compromised for the narrow interests of some private pilots. We will make every effort to have this decision reversed and look to all legal means to achieve it,” said Locke.

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Contact: Harvey Locke (647) 225-7438