Progress Report on Implementation of the Recommendations of the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks

Foreword

Despite their fame and popularity – in part because of it – the national parks of Canada are at a crossroads. The challenge is maintaining, and in some cases restoring, their ecological integrity. Without integrity, the very essence of the national parks – the reason for which they are valued – will be lost. The loss of ecological integrity is occurring today. It is not only a problem in its own right, it diminishes the opportunity to provide a high quality visitor experience for future generations.

The increasing magnitude of this problem has been recorded in our biennial State of the Parks Reports. Several initiatives have been launched in recent years to counter the increasing concerns about the loss of ecological integrity. For example, Parks Canada launched the Banff-Bow Valley Study and revised the Banff National Park Management Plan to reflect the recommendations of the study, and is now using the Banff plan as a model to prepare plans for other parks in the national park system. As another example, staff in our national parks are placing more effort on working with neighbours to plan collaboratively for greater park ecosystems. Despite these efforts and many others, the ecological integrity of the parks continues to deteriorate.

In the wake of the Banff-Bow Valley Study report and subsequent revisions to the Banff National Park Management Plan, an expert Panel was appointed in November 1998 to report on how well Parks Canada was fulfilling its responsibility to maintain the ecological integrity of national parks. The Panel was asked to make system-wide recommendations for action.

The Panel's report is a turning point for the future of Canada's national parks. The Panel confirmed that the national parks are under serious threat and both immediate and long term action is required. They highlighted the significant challenges Parks Canada faces going into the future, and the importance of engaging partners in tackling these challenges.

This progress report reinforces the strong message of the Action Plan announced on March 23, 2000 by Minister Copps upon receipt of the Panel's report - that the maintenance and restoration of ecological integrity of our national parks is Parks Canada's first priority. This report sets out what we have done, are doing, and plan to do in the future to maintain and restore the ecological integrity of our national parks.

I am pleased that Mr. Jacques Gérin, former Chair of the Panel, has recently written to the Minister indicating that Parks Canada has now met the basic pre-conditions set out by the Panel for seeking the new long term funding needed to fully bring the Panel report to life. Actions have been initiated to request funds.

The report of the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks was prepared on the basis of extensive consultation and analysis. Since it was distributed in March 2000, Parks Canada has initiated discussions on the recommendations with its own staff, other federal departments and agencies, provincial and territorial governments, conservation non-governmental organizations, tourism interests, and many other Canadian groups and individuals interested in the report. These discussions have been central in guiding this response to the Panel's recommendations, and this dialogue will continue.

Canada's national parks are the crown jewels of our country's protected spaces. We will continue to offer a high quality visitor experience in our national parks for Canadians and international visitors, planned and managed in such a way that natural processes and values are sustained.

As the Chief Executive Officer for the Parks Canada Agency, I am proud of our accomplishments since the release of the Action Plan, and I am strongly committed to ensuring ecological integrity is the "first priority" for our national parks. I am pleased that in support of this priority, it was indicated in the January 2001 Speech from the Throne that the federal government committed to implement a plan to restore existing parks to ecological health, as well as invest in the creation of new national parks.

Signature of Tom Lee

Tom Lee
Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada

March 2001