Public Values

Conservative cuts to national parks threaten ecology and economy

Commercial and industrial activities compete with tourism and conservation.

Hebert-Daly: Why isnt government recognizing important benefits that result from investing in parks?OTTAWA, ON, July 12, 2012: The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) has released a sobering report about the growing threats our parks are facing. The report highlights the dangers to our parks due to funding cuts, the loss of science and ecological monitoring capacity and the growth of inappropriate developments within and adjacent to many current and proposed parks.

"Overall, the trend is extremely discouraging this year. Parks Canada has been hit hard by funding cuts, and is eliminating 638 staff positions across the country. In turn this means that close to 30 percent of all the scientists and technicians restoring and monitoring the ecological health of our parks will lose their jobs. The cuts also mean many parks are cutting their seasons shorter, opening the door to inappropriate use of them with no supervision," says CPAWS National Executive Director Eric Hebert-Daly.

  "The government's own research shows that for every $1 spent on parks, $5 is contributed to Canada's gross domestic product."

"Not only are our parks facing growing threats to their ecological health from the funding cuts, the tourism sector and nearby communities are also facing economic harm. The government's own research shows that for every $1 spent on parks, $5 is contributed to Canada's gross domestic product. Why isn't the government recognizing the important benefits that result from investing in our parks?" adds Hebert-Daly.

Rise in inappropriate commercial activities

In addition to the dangers of funding cuts to our parks' ecological health and to local communities, CPAWS' report also highlights a notable rise in approvals of inappropriate recreation and tourism activities within parks. These activities pose threats to our park's ecological health and are of dubious value in increasing people's appreciation of nature.

Examples of the trend towards inappropriate developments include Parks Canada's approval last year of large scale summer use of Banff's Mt. Norquay ski area (an important habitat area for grizzly bears and other wildlife), a massive new glass and concrete viewing platform approved this year for Jasper National Park and a decision last month to solicit proposals to re-build the long-closed downhill ski area in Manitoba's Riding Mountain National Park.

Industrial threats mount

The report also highlights inappropriate industrial activities within or adjacent to national and provincial parks, including repeated efforts to re-open Yukon's Tombstone Provincial Park to mining exploration, a mine progressing that is encircled by Nahanni National Park Reserve, continued logging in Ontario's Algonquin Park, forestry activities surrounding Saskatchewan's Prince Albert National Park and new deep water oil and gas exploration off the coast of Newfoundland's Gros Morne National Park.

CPAWS has also highlighted concerns about the trend in proposing boundaries for new wilderness parks that exclude important parts of the ecosystems they are supposed to protect. Examples include a proposed new park in Nunavik where habitat for the world's only population of freshwater seals is being excluded because of hydro-electric interest and Manitoba's recently announced Little Limestone Lake Park that excludes areas of potential mining interest.

"Unfortunately, all of this bad news overshadows the few spots of good news we have seen regarding parks across the country this year," adds Hebert Daly. The good news includes a federal commitment to create Rouge National Urban Park outside of Toronto and Nova Scotia's creation of a large new wilderness reserve in the Chignecto area.

CPAWS has been issuing an annual report on the state of Canada's parks since 2008. The first report lauded the rate of new parks creation by the federal government that year. Subsequent reports noted the slowdown in parks creation, the need to increase the number of marine protected areas, and some inappropriate developments that were starting to be noted.

Links and sources
  Canada's parks facing growing threats to their ecological health: CPAWS

Posted: July 19, 2012

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