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Home » AMPPE in the News » Eco-tourism a big draw for National Parks

July 12, 2016 – Casey Peirce, AMPPE.

First and foremost, we need to remember that Parks are for the people. Canadians and visitors from all over the world come to experience what Canada has to offer and a big part of that is a natural, wild, eco-friendly experience. Which is exactly what we as a nation can provide. Exaggerations of over-development are harmful to our tourism brand and by certain organizations are simply not based on facts. To be specific only 5% of Banff National Park is developed. Jasper National Park contains development within 3% of over 10,000 square kilometres – and these numbers include full towns. Canada is predominantly vast wilderness, and we are not by any means abusing or limiting the wildlife that live within due to tourism.

Tourism is a vital component to our Nation’s economy. People come from all over the world to experience Canada. In Alberta alone tourism is an 8 billion dollar industry – that’s more than agriculture and forestry combined. In these economically challenging times we need to remember those industries that can and are contributing to our GDP.

Photo Credit: Paul Zizka

Visitors enjoying the Banff Legacy Trail. Photo Credit: Paul Zizka

That’s not to say that we should be or are offering up tourism-based development at the expense of our environment. That is by no means the current situation at all despite controversial perspectives from certain organizations. The businesses and people who live in the mountain parks want more than anything to preserve these iconic wilderness spaces, we know that our livelihood depends on it. The conservation initiatives that are in place from Federal and Provincial levels are well funded to protect our wildlife. Canada is a world leader in protection of bears, wolves, ungulates, birds and many other species. Our track record is impressive when it comes to conservation. Certainly there is no intent to overuse or over-develop these beautiful regions, only to responsibly promote them in order to engage Canadians and visitors in a unique, experiential and accessible way.

Visitation to Banff National Park is up 10% over previous years and with the low dollar and depressed economy, more Canadians and Americans are choosing Canada for their vacations. We know that with 2017 being a celebration of 150 years as a Nation where the Government has promised free access to our Parks, we can expect increased numbers of visitors next year. It would be irresponsible to not plan for future increases in numbers of visitors. We have an obligation to ensure that their experiences are positive. This means investing into the assets we have in place. Parks Canada is one of many key stakeholders leading the striving toward accomplishing this.

New and exciting interpretive programming and upgraded facilities in our Parks are key to providing positive visitor experience. Parks Canada has evolved over the years to realize this and the Federal Government supports this need with continued investment. Conservation has always been a key component of preserving our wilderness and continues to be the number one priority of Environmental Impact Studies that take place before any new development is approved or implemented. However, we need to think bigger to manage our National Parks and why people come to them.

Activities such as skiing and biking are very big draws to the mountain parks, and we need to embrace them.  New bike trails in Jasper should be celebrated as ways for people to experience the region we live in and opportunities to experience this area in a way that does not negatively impact the environment. Thankfully we have federally mandated laws that ensure the responsible development of these and other offerings, and that is where the Parks Canada is obligated to and does intervene. That is why Environmental Impact Assessments are mandated to ensure that any new development is approved following very strict, evidence based research studies to ensure responsible usage within our National Parks.

We should all be grateful that these studies take place. Our new government has a solid focus on climate change and ecological integrity. Let’s have faith that they will uphold their commitments to improvements within the National Parks that benefit all members of our nation, our incredible ecology and important guests. Canadians depend on it in more ways than one.

Casey Peirce

Executive Director,

Association for Mountain Parks Protection & Enjoyment

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AMPPE is a non-profit member based organization that represents a wide range of stakeholders from a cross-section of industry in Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks. Our members include local user groups, municipalities, tour operators, restaurants, accommodation providers, retailers and business firms. We are the only organization in the region that supports and advocates for such a complete cross-section of the mountain park communities within Kananaskis, Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay.

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