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

Background

Canada has a spectacular national park system, renowned worldwide, administered by proud and dedicated staff of the Parks Canada Agency. The national parks protect some of the most precious and well-known natural areas in the country. Both the national park system and the park service are steeped in history and tradition – the first national park was established at Banff, Alberta in 1885, and the National Parks Service was created in 1911. However, as noted in the Foreword, the national parks are facing the problem of diminishing ecological integrity.

  • Over the past 15 years, it has been increasingly recognized that protection must be the paramount concern. This was reflected in amendments to the National Parks Act in 1988, and to the Parks Canada Guiding Principles and Operational Policies tabled in Parliament in 1994.
  • In 1994, the Banff-Bow Valley Study was launched to identify measures to reduce and, in some cases, reverse impacts of commercial and recreational development in the Bow Valley.
  • Parks Canada's State of the Parks 1997 Report reported that 26 parks (of 36 considered in the report) are still reporting high numbers of stressors that are causing significant ecological impacts. The State of Protected Heritage Areas 1999 Report confirmed this situation.
  • In 1998, a panel of experts was struck to recommend how best to ensure that ecological integrity is maintained across the system of national parks.
  • The Panel presented its landmark report in March 2000. The Panel confirmed that Canada's national parks have been progressively losing important natural components which Parks Canada was dedicated to protect. It calls for actions to strengthen and implement the legislative framework and policies to conserve these places, and a commitment of new long-term funding to support this effort. The Panel made 127 recommendations.

The direction established pursuant to receipt of the Panel's report was clear:

"This report serves the national interest, this report serves the future, and this report will not be gathering dust.... We must make ecological integrity the centrepiece of every decision we make for the future of Canada's national parks...." (Minister Copps)

The Action Plan to respond to the report focused on four major thrusts:

  • making ecological integrity central in legislation and policy
  • building partnerships for ecological integrity
  • planning for ecological integrity
  • renewal of Parks Canada to support the ecological integrity mandate

The Chief Executive Officer of Parks Canada was directed to report on implementation progress at the first national Round Table established pursuant to the Parks Canada Agency Act.

This report is in two sections. Part 1 outlines the progress in implementing the Action Plan. Part 2 outlines actions in implementing all 127 of the Panel's recommendations. There is inevitably some overlap between the two sections.