July 14, 2014
Canada’s parks faring worse than last year but Manitoba gets good marks
New CPAWS Parks Report
Winnipeg – In its sixth annual review of the state of Canada’s parks, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) finds that many parks and proposed protected areas are facing greater challenges than they were a year ago. On a brighter note, Manitoba gets good marks for launching a process to create a huge new park to protect polar bears and other species around the Hudson’s Bay coast. And in breaking news, Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh recently announced that consultations will soon begin for protection of the massive Seal River ecosystem.
The proposed Polar Bear Provincial Park could be as large as 29,000 square kilometers, which is comparable to the size of Vancouver Island. The Seal River ecosystem is 50,000 square kilometers, close to the size of Nova Scotia, and is is one of the few large intact watersheds in the world. The Seal is also northern Manitoba’s largest free-flowing, undammed river.
“Manitoba’s north presents an opportunity that most places in the world have lost. The chance to create a plan for a healthy balance of environmental protection and economic prosperity before development proposals are made,” said Ron Thiessen, executive director of the Manitoba chapter of CPAWS.
In many parts of Canada, there is a growing trend by governments to prioritize industrial and commercial interests over the long-term ecological, social and economic benefits of establishing and protecting Canada’s parks. Decisions are being made in many instances that ignore scientific evidence and public opinion.
With little public notice or debate, the B.C. government amended its Park Act in March to facilitate boundary adjustments for pipeline and other industrial developments.
Parks Canada’ s ability to protect the ecological integrity of national parks continues to be in question due to the 2012 funding cuts to the Agency’s science and conservation programs, an issue highlighted by the federal Environment Commissioner in his November report to Parliament.
In Jasper National Park, Alberta the federal government is considering a proposal for a hotel at Maligne Lake that would violate a park policy designed specifically to limit commercial development, and could put a highly endangered caribou herd in the park at greater risk.
In the Yukon, First Nations and conservation groups including CPAWS were in court earlier this month challenging the territory’s plan to open up over 70% of the spectacular Peel watershed to mineral, oil and gas staking, in direct contravention of a government-supported commission’s recommendation after six years of study to protect 80% of the area in parks and other conservation zones.
“ Why is protecting Canada’s amazing nature within parks and other forms of protected areas so difficult for some jurisdictions to achieve when their benefits to nature, human health and the economy are so strong?,” says Thiessen.
A report released this year by the Canadian Parks Council shows protecting nature in parks provides strong health and economic benefits. And a 2011 report found that Canada’s parks support more than 64,000 fulltime jobs, generate nearly $3 billion in labour income, and $337 million in government tax revenues.
In response to the findings in this year’s report, CPAWS is calling on many governments to better recognize the environmental, economic and social benefits of parks, and to commit to significant expansions and better management of parks systems across the country. In Manitoba, CPAWS will continue to work with all involved to create new and expanded parks and protected areas.
“Canada will join the rest of the world at the once-in-a-decade IUCN World Parks Congress in November in Australia. In the lead-up to this global gathering, federal, provincial and territorial governments in Canada should embrace the opportunity to create more parks and better protect our existing ones. We have identified plenty of opportunities to do just that in the report,” adds Thiessen.
For interviews, contact:
Ron Thiessen, 204 453 6346, 204 794 4971, [email protected]