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Home » AMPPE in the News » Balance is key within Canada’s National Parks

July 21, 2016 – The Rocky Mountain Outlook – Casey Peirce, AMPPE.

Finding the appropriate balance between use and conservation is the key to successfully sustaining Canada’s National Parks.

The recent unjustified criticism of the management of Canada’s National Parks by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) environmental group begs the question:  what is of utmost most importance within our parks?

Over the last decade, the Parks Canada Agency has come to understand the importance of balance between conservation, sustainable tourism and positive visitor experience. The National Parks are not sanctuaries simply there for preservationists but places where Canadians go to engage with their history, culture and nature.

Parks Canada’s mandate is not one solely of conservation as some groups like to argue, but rather one of balance: “On behalf of the people of Canada, we protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure their ecological and commemorative integrity for present and future generations.”

Environmental critics suggest that “we are loving our parks to death”, but this is simply not true. In reference to the mountain parks just 4% of Banff National Park is developed, the rest remains zoned untouched wilderness. Developed areas only represent 3% of the over 10,000 square kilometres that make up Jasper National Park.

The landmark Bow Valley Study which is at the root of many the draconian measures used to limit human enjoyment predicted 19 million people would visit the park by 2020, just four years from now. That is more than five times the number of visitors who visit today.

People come from all over the world to visit Canada’s National Parks; it is important to be able to accommodate them in a safe and accessible manner and to provide enriching experiences and opportunities to connect with those values that are important to us as a nation.

There is a demand for experiences that are not just along our highways, but for those that provide the ability to see the region outside of cars and RVs. The integration of bike paths, multi-use trails, climbing routes, ski areas and sightseeing tours is critical to the visitor experience. People want quality services and opportunities within the Canadian parks.

Red Rock Canyon Parkway, Waterton National Park

Red Rock Canyon Parkway, Waterton National Park

Tourism is a major industry in Alberta representing an $8.4 billion investment annually. That’s more contribution to the GDP then forestry and agriculture combined in this province. With the low Canadian dollar and the current downturn in our economy, tourism is on the rise in Canada. We cannot afford to undervalue this investment in the provincial and national economy. As with any industry, responsible management is key.

Climate change is a strong area of focus for our current federal and provincial government. Any initiative undertaken within the National Parks is always carefully investigated by strict environmental impact assessments. The notion that these checks and balances are not taking place is false. Fear mongering amongst the environmental groups is currently rampant, dangerous to Canada’s brand and could result in restrictions to the national treasures that belong to Canadians.

Parks are for the people. They need to be managed in a responsible way that allows all Canadians and visitors to experience the beauty and vast wilderness that this country contains, which means providing access in a safe and accessible way.

Canada does not have a people problem. The National Parks are not by any means full. Long term federally and provincially approved management plans are guiding the success of conservation and ecological integrity in the parks. Other countries look to us as an example of how to protect and foster complicated and vast environments. Current studies show that grizzly bear populations are on the rise, caribou conservation efforts are in place and that initiatives such as bison reintroduction are being implemented to enhance the original cultural and natural landscape.

The management of our National Parks is serious business that impacts all Canadians, the economy, our international reputation and our climate. Canada’s Government via the Parks Canada Agency is working diligently to continue the balance between sustainable tourism, wildlife conservation, education, ecological integrity and positive visitor experience. Engagement with key stakeholders from these pillars is ensuring that this balance is in place. Environmental watchdog groups are an important piece to this puzzle, but there are many other factors to consider in the management of our National Parks.

It all comes back to the appropriate balance.

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