Common menu bar links

Part II - Activity Policies: National Parks Policy

2.0 Management Planning

Park management plans are essential for the direction of park managers. They are also commitments to the public of Canada from the Minister responsible for Parks Canada regarding the use and protection of national parks. They contain statements of management objectives in sufficient detail to indicate how a park will protect and represent the natural and cultural aspects of its region. In keeping with these objectives, plans will: specify the type and degree of resource protection and management needed to assure the ecological integrity of the park and the management of its cultural resources; define the type, character and locale of visitor facilities, activities and services; and identify target groups.

The 1988 amendments to the National Parks Act state that the maintenance of ecological integrity must be the first consideration in management planning. Parliament has confirmed the Parks Canada policy of preparing management plans for all parks and of public involvement in this process. It is now mandatory that within five years of the proclamation of a national park under any Act of Parliament, the Minister shall approve and table that park's management plan in Parliament. The Minister must also review, amend as necessary and re-table the management plans every five years.

Appropriate public participation at the national, regional and local levels is an essential part of the development of management plans.

Generally, management planning will begin as soon as lands are placed under Parks Canada administration and control, although it may still be years before all issues are resolved and a park is established under the National Parks Act. Interim management guidelines are prepared to direct essential park operations until a management plan is approved. The guidelines will be conservative and will not propose major development or resource manipulation. Definition of resource management practices and existing and potential opportunities for understanding, appreciation and enjoyment will form a key part of the interim guidelines.


2.1 Management Plans

2.1.1
Parks Canada will prepare management plans for the Minister's approval and tabling in Parliament:

i) within five years after the proclamation of a park under any Act of Parliament; or
ii) within five years of the transfer of administration and control to Parks Canada of lands proposed for establishment as national parks.
Management plans will be reviewed every five years for re-tabling with any amendments.

2.1.2
In the preparation of a management plan, the maintenance of ecological integrity through the protection of natural resources and processes will be the first priority when considering zoning and visitor use. The protection of cultural resources will receive a high level of consideration subject to this legislated requirement.

2.1.3
Each management plan will contain a statement of park purpose and objectives that will reflect the role of the park in the system of national parks, and in the natural region in which it is located.

2.1.4
Park management plans provide the framework for further detailed sub-plans concerning:

i) ecosystem management (park conservation plan); and
ii) interpretation, visitor services and visitor risk management (park service plan).

2.1.5
Parks Canada will inform and involve a broad spectrum of the Canadian public in the preparation, review and amendment of park management plans.

2.1.6
The implementation and effectiveness of each park management plan will be monitored continuously.

2.1.7
Parks Canada will cooperate with other levels of government, private organizations and individuals responsible for the planning of areas adjacent to national parks to maintain ecological integrity and to ensure that services and facilities are integrated in a positive manner with surrounding regions.

2.1.8
Management plans for national parks which have additional international or national designations, such as World Heritage Site, Biosphere Reserve, Ramsar Site, Canadian Heritage River, or National Historic Site, will include strategies for protection and promotion of the values that resulted in the additional designations.


2.2 Zoning

The national parks zoning system is an integrated approach by which land and water areas are classified according to ecosystem and cultural resource protection requirements, and their capability and suitability to provide opportunities for visitor experiences. It is one part of an array of management strategies used by Parks Canada to assist in maintaining ecological integrity through providing a framework for the area-specific application of policy directions, such as for resource management, appropriate activities, and research. As such, zoning provides direction for the activities of park managers and park visitors alike. The application of zoning requires a sound information base related to both ecosystem structure, function and sensitivity, as well as the opportunities and impacts of existing and potential visitor experiences.

The zoning system provides a means to reflect principles of ecological integrity by protecting park lands and resources and ensuring a minimum of human-induced change. In certain national parks not all zones will be represented. Where zones which permit a concentration of visitor activities and supporting services and facilities are required (i.e., Zones IV and V), they will occupy no more than a small proportion of a national park.

In some cases, environmentally or culturally sensitive areas or sites may warrant special management but do not fit the zoning designations below. Park management plans will include the guidelines necessary for the protection and use of such areas or sites. Their designation complements the zoning system and is important to the protection of the full range of valued resources in certain national parks. Likewise, a temporal zoning designation may be considered for certain areas as part of the management planning program. Ecosystem management requirements will be paramount in consideration of any temporal zones.

2.2.1
The national parks zoning system will apply to all land and water areas of national parks, and to other natural areas within the Parks Canada system as appropriate. It does not preclude resource harvesting activities which are permitted by virtue of national park reserve status, land claim settlements and/or by new park establishment agreements.

2.2.2
Any change to a park's zoning constitutes a major amendment to the park management plan and may only be made following an environmental assessment, public notice and public participation in the decision.

2.2.3
The national park zoning system comprises the following five zones. (While the broad zoning framework is presented here, implementation depends upon more detailed guidance found in the zoning chapter of the directive on the National Parks Management Planning Process.)

2.2.3.1 Zone I - Special Preservation

Specific areas or features which deserve special preservation because they contain or support unique, threatened or endangered natural or cultural features, or are among the best examples of the features that represent a natural region. Preservation is the key consideration. Motorized access and circulation will not be permitted. In cases where the fragility of the area precludes any public access, every effort will be made to provide park visitors with appropriate off-site programs and exhibits interpreting the special characteristics of the zone.

2.2.3.2 Zone II - Wilderness

Extensive areas which are good representations of a natural region and which will be conserved in a wilderness state. The perpetuation of ecosystems with minimal human interference is the key consideration. Zones I and II will together constitute the majority of the area of all but the smallest national parks, and will make the greatest contribution toward the conservation of ecosystem integrity.

Zone II areas offer opportunities for visitors to experience, first hand, a park's natural and cultural heritage values through outdoor recreation activities which are dependent upon and within the capacity of the park's ecosystems, and which require few, if any, rudimentary services and facilities. Where the area is large enough, visitors will also have the opportunity to experience remoteness and solitude. Opportunities for outdoor recreation activities will be encouraged only when they do not conflict with maintaining the wilderness itself. For this reason, motorized access and circulation will not be permitted, with the possible exception of strictly controlled air access in remote northern parks, as specified in 4.4.3.

Parks Canada will use a variety of other direct and indirect strategies for managing public use, and will evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies on a regular basis.

2.2.3.3 Zone III - Natural Environment

Areas which are managed as natural environments, and which provide opportunities for visitors to experience a park's natural and cultural heritage values through outdoor recreation activities requiring minimal services and facilities of a rustic nature. While motorized access may be allowed, it will be controlled. Public transit that facilitates heritage appreciation will be preferred. Park management plans may define provisions for terminating or limiting private motorized access.

2.2.3.4 Zone IV - Outdoor Recreation

Limited areas which are capable of accommodating a broad range of opportunities for understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the park's heritage values and related essential services and facilities, in ways that impact the ecological integrity of the park to the smallest extent possible, and whose defining feature is direct access by motorized vehicles. Park management plans may define provisions for limiting private motorized access and circulation.

2.2.3.5 Zone V - Park Services

Communities in existing national parks which contain a concentration of visitor services and support facilities. Specific activities, services and facilities in this zone will be defined and directed by the community planning process. Major park operation and administrative functions may also be accommodated in this zone. Wherever possible, Parks Canada will locate these functions to maintain regional ecological integrity.


2.3 Designated Wilderness Areas

The 1988 amendments to the National Parks Act provide for the designation, by regulation, of wilderness areas within a park. It is intended that the designated wilderness area boundaries will be consistent with Zone II boundaries, although the requirement to produce a legal boundary survey may cause some slight variations. In addition, where Zone I areas are included in or are adjacent to Zone II areas, or are large enough to be considered on their own, they may also be included in designated wilderness areas, but will be managed to conform to their special requirements for protection.

While the criteria for defining designated wilderness areas mirror that for Zone II Wilderness, an Order in Council designation places a legislative constraint on development. Once the Order is in place, provisions of the National Parks Act come into effect which prohibit authorization of any activity in a designated wilderness area that is likely to impair its wilderness character. Only those activities would be allowed which are required for: park administration; public safety; the provision of basic user facilities including trails and rudimentary campsites; the carrying on of traditional renewable resource harvesting activities where authorized; and, in exceptional circumstances, access by air to remote parts of such areas.

As with all other crucial stages of management planning, the boundaries and appropriate uses of proposed designated wilderness areas will be determined with public input during the preparation or review of a management plan. Changes to the boundary of a designated wilderness area would have to be preceded by public consultation and approved through an Order in Council.