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National Parks Management Planning

A management plan is a strategic guide for future management of a national park. It is required by legislation, guided by public consultation, approved by the Minister responsible for Parks Canada, and tabled in Parliament. It is the primary public accountability document for each national park.

As a strategic and long-term guide, a management plan establishes a vision looking 15 or more years into the future. Its primary goal is to ensure that there is a clearly defined direction for the maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity and, in the light of this primary goal, for guiding appropriate use. Direction is also described for the heritage presentation programs, which are recognized as a fundamental means for achieving both protection and use objectives.

The Canada National Parks Act requires that a management plan be prepared every five years. The management plan must respect broad legislative and policy requirements as outlined in Parks Canada's Guiding Principles and Operating Policies (coming soon) while addressing local issues and circumstances.

The first step of the planning process is the production of a State of the Park Report, which describes the state of health of the park in the context of the greater ecosystem and the progress made toward achieving the goals of the previous park management plan.

Based on the findings of the State of the Park Report, a scoping document is then prepared to identify the main issues to be addressed and the proposed time frame needed to complete the plan. Once the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Parks Canada has approved the scoping document, the formal management planning activity is launched.

Public consultations that may include issue identification, generation of solutions and reviewing draft plans are required by legislation and policy for every management plan. First Nations, national non-government organizations, local communities, stakeholders and interested individuals are invited to participate by public announcements in various media, including the Internet.

Management plans are also subject to environmental assessments as required by the 1999 Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. A summary of the environmental assessment report is included in the management plan.

Once a plan is completed, it is submitted to the Minister for approval, on the recommendation of the CEO and, in some cases, the recommendation of other organizations. The process typically takes one to two years depending on the complexity of the issues involved. The Parks Canada Guide to Management Planning (available online soon) is the manual that guides management planners in their work.

The management plan is not an end in itself. Rather it sets out a framework within which subsequent management, planning and implementation will take place. Field Unit Superintendents are also required to complete an annual implementation report on the management plan as input to the annual business plan and to report to the public on management plan implementation.

The overall status of management plans is reported to Parliament every two years through the State of the Protected Heritage Areas Report. Accomplishments related to management planning are also reported in the Parks Canada Annual Report.

Examples of management plans can be found on the web sites of specific national parks. They are one of the best ways to find out what Parks Canada is doing to protect for all time the irreplaceable natural areas of national, and often international, significance that are Canada's national parks.