Overseeing Canada’s national parks presents something of a Catch-22 situation for Parks Canada.
On the one hand, the agency wants to encourage as many people as possible to enjoy our country’s natural areas and the pristine beauty they offer. But on the other hand, the greater the human intrusion into these areas, the greater the potential for a negative ecological impact.
Such is the ongoing balancing act.
If it’s any help to Parks Canada officials, public feedback through the Let’s Talk Parks, Canada consultation which took place in January 2017 has resulted in establishing three key priorities for Parks Canada, with task No. 1 being “to protect and restore our national parks and historic sites.”
That’s based on the Round Table consultation process, during which more than 13,000 people and organizations participated. “The most common concern raised was that the principles of ecological and commemorative integrity are at risk of being compromised,” said the “Let’s Talk Parks” report.
Second on the priority list is to “Enable people to further discover and connect with our parks and heritage.” Priority No. 3 is to “Sustain for generations to come the incredible value — both ecological and economic — that our parks and historic sites provide for communities.”
Meeting priorities No. 1 and 3 might mean easing up on the accelerator with respect to commercial development in Canada’s national parks.
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna noted in the report, “Maintaining and restoring ecological integrity requires limits on development in national parks, particularly those where development can impact ecosystem health.”
That makes good sense. After all, the attraction of our national parks is the unspoiled wilderness and its resident wildlife. Unrestrained development not only threatens these natural treasures but is counterproductive to the goal of ensuring Canadians and international visitors can continue to enjoy our parks.
Canada has 47 national parks and 171 national historic sites. The report points out these “have enormous ecological value, but they are also critical to our tourism industry. They help generate billions of dollars for the economy annually and support roughly 40,000 full-time equivalent jobs across the country.”
Taking care of these parks and historic sites should be a priority, then, as the input received from Canadians indicates suggests. The next step is for the people who manage these precious resources to make wise decisions that will ensure the protection and sustainability of these sites. Toward that end, McKenna says an independent working group will be formed to examine Parks Canada’s practices and approval policies for development.
Let’s hope this delicate balancing act will ensure we can continue to enjoy Canada’s national parks and historic sites for generations to come.