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Home » AMPPE in the News » Federal environment committee holds meetings in Banff and Jasper

September 20, 2016 – Calgary Herald. Story by Colette Derworiz.

BANFF — Some members of a federal environment committee are in Banff and Jasper this week on a fact-finding mission to learn what works — and what doesn’t work — in Canada’s national parks.

From Monday to Wednesday, the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development is holding private meetings with First Nations leaders, the mayors, business groups, conservationists and staff with Parks Canada in Banff and Jasper.

Both national parks have been experiencing record visitors in recent years.

“In those areas, we are looking specifically at the challenges between the high use and the natural environment,” said Deb Schulte, chairwoman of the all-party committee and a Liberal MP in Ontario. “Protected spaces (are) generally protected for nature, but the use and the supports that are required for that use are impacting nature.

“It’s degrading the environment. How do we find a balance for that and still make those parks a destination for Canadians?”

The assessment of federal protected areas and conservation objectives, one of several studies by the committee, has already met with several environmental groups and other stakeholders in Ottawa over the past couple of months.

In Banff, they’re meeting with businesses such as Brewster and Lake Louise Ski Area and groups such as the National Ski Areas Association and the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment.

They’re going up the gondola in Banff, visiting Lake Louise Ski Area and stopping at the Glacier Skywalk on the way to Jasper National Park.

“We’re going to some of the hot spots,” said Schulte, noting they wanted to get out on the landscape to talk to people firsthand.

Conservationists and business groups said they appreciated the opportunity to speak to the committee, which is also looking at the bigger picture of how to protect more natural areas in order to meet an international target by 2020.

“There are two big things,” said Harvey Locke, a national parks expert who lives in Banff. “How are we going to meet our obligation to protect 17 per cent of the land and 10 per cent of the oceans of Canada?

“We’re lagging badly as a country, and we need to pick up our socks and get at it.”

As for Banff, Locke said he wanted to remind the committee that it’s a national park — not a place for competing interests and development for personal gain.

“Banff is bursting at the seams with demands,” he said, noting he would raise concerns about the Lake Louise ski hill expansion and the proposed bike trail from Banff to Jasper. “Those things are absurd.

“We need to be keeping our parks intact, not putting more pressure on.”

Crosby Cotton, the spokesman for the National Parks Ski Areas Association, said he found it refreshing to meet with the committee because they wanted to know the facts.

“They did not want to engage in the us versus them mentality,” he said.

Cotton said ski areas have a great opportunity to be “iconic symbols of conservation, of visitor experience, of enjoyment, of education.”

Similarly, the executive director of the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment suggested visitors are no longer just looking for a photo opportunity.

“They are really looking for ways to engage in their surroundings,” said Casey Peirce, noting she suggested improvements — such as better transit systems — that could both protect the environmental integrity of the parks and provide a good visitor experience.

Schulte said all of the information they receive at the hearings would be taken back to Ottawa and presented at the committee next week before they draft a report with recommendations to the federal government this fall.

Original article sourced here.

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