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2008 Status on Agency Progress since First Priority

Executive Summary

The Agency has successfully achieved implementation of the commitments from its 2000 Action Plan in the four areas of: making ecological integrity central in legislation and policy; building partnerships for ecological integrity; planning for ecological integrity; and renewal of Parks Canada to support its ecological integrity objectives.

The most recent highlight of establishment work includes increasing the legislative boundaries of Nahanni National Park and Reserve of Canada to cover about 30,000 square km. This represents a six fold increase in protected area – roughly equivalent to the size of Vancouver Island – of breathtaking landscapes such as the Ram Plateau, the Nahanni North Karst, the Tlogotsho Plateau, the Raged Range and Glacier Lake, thus protecting much of the Nahanni watershed and providing for fantastic new visitor experiences that reflect Aboriginal culture. This addition will increase by almost ten percent the area protected under Parks Canada’s national parks system. Also of great importance is the signing of an agreement between Canada and Ontario to establish the 10,000 square-kilometre Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area and the establishment of Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve in 2008. These actions contribute to protecting Canada’s wilderness, biodiversity and the natural process that provide us with clean air and water.

Greater efforts have also been made to enhance reporting on ecological integrity in Canada’s national parks. There is now a policy requirement for every national park to report on its state of ecological integrity every five years, based on information from ongoing monitoring programs. In addition to discussing the condition of ecological integrity in Canada’s national parks, The State of the Park report is the accountability mechanism for Field Unit Superintendents to report to the CEO on achieving the Agency’s Corporate Plan performance expectations related to maintaining and improving ecological integrity, in addition to other program areas such as cultural resource management, visitor experience and public outreach and education. Ecological integrity issues identified in these reports support the scoping for the five-year management planning review.

In support of Parks Canada’s five-year management planning review, the Agency’s Guide to Management Planning was updated and release in 2008. The guide sets out the legal and policy foundation for management planning for all national parks, national marine conservation areas, and national historic sites that are owned or administered by the Agency. It also emphasizes the Field Unit Superintendent accountability to the CEO for planning and reporting on the integrated approach for protection, public education and visitor experience in implementing the Agency mandate. The guide includes sections on key strategies and area management tat set out objectives, targets and key management activities to be undertaken to address identified issues. All parks initiating a planning process in the future will follow the 2008 Guide to Management Planning.

The establishment of a fully functioning EI monitoring and reporting system forms the knowledge foundation for consistency in reporting on maintaining and improving the EI in Canada’s national parks. The EI monitoring and reporting program relies on the expertise or park specialists, local communities, citizen volunteers and Aboriginal partners to collect and interpret the information. The 6 to8 ecological integrity indicators for each national park measure the health of Canada’s national parks by reporting on the indicator’s condition and trend (improving, stable or declining) over time. The Agency has created and filled 54 new science positions and 22 new public education positions to support ecological integrity monitoring, restoration and the enhancement of public education and visitor experiences. Collectively, these actions maximize Parks Canada’s ability to successfully implement its initiatives in a steady and sustainable manner, which is consistent with the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s observations in the 2005 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Additional policy and operational guidance tools to govern active management and restoration activities have recently been developed, including the joint Parks Canada Agency – Canada Parks Council publication: Principles and Guidelines for Ecological Restoration in Canada’s Protected Natural Areas (2007), Management Directive on the Management of Hyperabundant Wildlife Populations (2008), and the National Fire Management Plan (2008). The implementation of these guidance and policy tools are resulting in tangible improvements in the EI of Canada’s national parks. For example, the re-introduction of natural processes, such as fire or ‘’prescribed burn” into the landscape, is often one of the goals of ecological restoration. In Kootenay National Park, since 2002 the park has restored approximately 200 hectares of land near a popular campground to its historical state through a combination of forest clearing and prescribed burn. As a result, the area is now more hospitable for bighorn sheep and other species that depend on open forest/grassland habitat. Radio-tracking of the sheep indicates these animals are now returning to the restored areas after decades of absence. The ecological restoration of this area has resulted in an improvement of the ecological integrity indicators for Kootenay National Park.

The establishment of the EI monitoring and reporting system along with new operational guidance and policies support the Agency in achieving its corporate plan commitment to maintain and improve the EI in all national parks. However, Parks Canada cannot achieve this goal alone. The Agency works with the Federal Biosystematics Partnership and Conservation Data Centres such as NatureServe to facilitate consistency in biological data compilation and accessibility to data within the Agency and across Federal departments. The Agency also partners with universities and centres of excellence, such as the Canadian Barcode of Life Network, to support science-based research and results that are consistent with Parks Canada’s priorities for the protection of our natural heritage. The Parks Canada – Nature Conservancy of Canada agreement reached in 2005 works to secure private lands that are crucial to maintaining the EI of select parks. In addition, the Agency is working with the Tourism Industry Association of Canada and the Canadian Tourism Commission to enhance delivery of consistent message about ecological integrity among tourism industry practitioners.

Strong inter-agency partnerships are a hallmark of Parks Canada’s efforts to protect and recover species at risk. For example, in Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada an innovative stewardship program is helping to bring species at risk back from the brink of extinction. Recovery efforts, with the help of volunteers, are focusing effort on enhancing critically small populations of Blanding’s turtles. Since 2005, over 200 volunteers have been involved in a combination of nest screening to protect eggs from predators and increased protection for nesting turtles. Together these volunteers have tallied almost 10,000 hours in restoration activities. Across the country, Parks Canada works closely with local communities, including Aboriginal peoples and governments, volunteers, and partners and stakeholder groups to ensure the protection and recovery of species at risk within greater park ecosystems. This is an excellent example of implementing the integrated approach to protection (through ecological restoration efforts), public education and visitor experience.

Parks Canada is committed to improving relationships and cooperative activities with Aboriginal peoples. For example, the Agency created an Aboriginal Affairs Secreteriat in 1999 and has established an Aboriginal Consultative Committee to advise the Agency on relevant policy issues. Parks Canada will continue to place priority on increasing the opportunity for Aboriginal people to meaningfully inform all aspects of the management of national parks. For example, in 2007, St.Lawrence Islands National Parks was honoured to be invited to participate in a Smoky Fire Ceremony, a rich Mohawk tradition aimed at building trust, respect and new working relationships between cultures. Since then, Aboriginal perspectives have been integrated by including Aboriginal traditional knowledge in decision-making related to resource management, visitor experience and educational programming. The Agency will continue to work to strengthen and deepen its relationship with Aboriginal people in and around national parks through initiatives that encourage Aboriginal people to reconnect with their traditional cultural landscapes.

The 2008 report Action on the Ground II: Working with Canadians to Improve Ecological Integrity in Canada’s National Parks highlights additional examples of shared stewardship from across Canada and reflects a host of creative and innovative approaches used by park team members and Agency partners to address challenges specific to improving and maintaining ecological integrity in Canada’s national parks. In addition, Action on the Ground II fulfills the Agency’s 2005 commitment to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to periodically produce public interest document that report on improving or maintaining ecological integrity.

In order for Parks Canada to continue to achieve such positive results in the face of internal and external factors such as climate change and a changing social environment, the Agency will invest $90 million over the next 5 years to meet the 2008-2009 Corporate plan commitments. Future action-on-the-ground initiatives will build on the established monitoring and reporting program, policy and guidance tools, and existing partnerships to improve the ecological integrity of Canada’s national parks. Through these initiatives, Parks Canada will continue to foster a deeper understanding and sense of attachment among Canadians to their protected heritage places.

These activities position Parks Canada well to effectively embrace future challenges and opportunities in maintaining and improving the ecological integrity of Canada’s national parks. The outcomes will result in healthy ecosystems for the benefit and enjoyment of Canadians for many generations to come. The integrated delivery of Parks Canada’s mandate of protection, education and memorable experience will help Parks Canada ensure the continued relevance of national parks to all Canadians.

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