National Parks (By A. Olive)

I have wanted to write something about parks for a while now. My student, Anthony Koundourakis, wrote a piece about the Rouge Park a couple weeks ago, and I thought: “yes, I must write about parks.”

This summer I have visited Banff National Park. As you probably know, this was our first national park in Canada – established way back in 1887. The Rocky Mountain Parks Act says the park is for “the benefit, advantage, and enjoyment of the people of Canada.” Later, in 1930, the National Parks Act would declare parks as “dedicated to the people of Canada for their benefit, education, and enjoyment” and that parks “shall be maintained and made use of so as to leave them impaired for the benefit of future generations.”

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I am part of that “future generation” enjoying parks! This summer, I also spent a few days in Jasper National Park.

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Out of Canada’s 47 national parks, I have visited only 12. My goal is to visit them all. Yes, even the ones in the north. There is a map of Canadian Parks in The Canadian Environment in Political Context. And you can find a list here. How many of you visited?!

Last week, the Globe and Mail featured an interesting article on our national parks. Or more specifically, on Parks Canada. It turns out that our lead eNGO on parks, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (formed in 1963), released a report suggesting that “The federal agency that manages Canada’s national parks has reduced both public input and scientific research in its decision-making process, and is allowing more development in places where fragile ecosystems need protection.”

This is reason for concern. Right now scientists are calling for “half for nature,” which means that we should be protecting 50% of earth’s land for other (non-human) living things (see Parks and Protected Areas in Canada by Dearden, Rollins, and Needham for a good read on national parks in Canada). We can half the planet, but we must give the other half to nature. As of 2016, 10.4% of Canada’s terrestrial area is legally protected. And about 1% of our marine territory is protected. This means we are falling short on our Aichi Target (as agreed to through the UN Convention on Biological Diversity). By 2020, 17% of terrestrial land and 10% of our marine territory is supposed to be legally protected. And we are of course way short on 50% of nature (which has not been declared a goal by the Canadian government).

Reading the report by CPAWS (find link here) is disheartening. Especially if you have ever visited one of our national parks and know all the beauty and splendour that they contain. From having been to Banff and Jasper just this summer, I definitely agree that Canadians should put a halt to any further development in those parks. And I think this guy would agree:

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I have a graduate student coming to UTM in the fall to work on a project about A2A (Algonquin to Adirondacks; see some info here) . So I am about to learn a bunch more about parks. That means, my readers, you will too.

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3 Replies to “National Parks (By A. Olive)”

  1. I live in the Northwest Territories and I completely agree about the sheer size and beauty of the Canadian landscape, and the need to protect it for future generations. The NWT is often referred to as “spectacular NWT” for good reason. Our beautiful (and healthy) lakes and waterways, mountains, ice, Auroras, caribou and other wildlife populations, Arctic plants, and so much more. In your opinion, with the new Liberal Government, do you think that there is a chance we can reach the Aichi Target?

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    1. I do not think we will meet our Aichi Targets by 2020. However, if we/when we do meet these targets, it will likely be because of all the parks in the North. And while it is great to have Northern parks, we also need to keep in mind that we need parks representing all of Canada’s ecosystems. So creating parks in a place simply because there are no (useful) natural resources there (yet) is not going to be the best strategy for biodiversity. I do think the Liberal government will provide more funding toward scientific study of biodiversity loss, climate change, hydrology, and other important factors that shape our understanding of natural spaces. This will surely help us better protect that land we have, as well as instruct us about which land should be (better) protected. Moreover, I see the Liberal government doing more to protect marine spaces, which is something that Canada has been woefully lacking.

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