Parks Canada announces decision that maintains Jasper National Park as a premier Winter travel destination while advancing caribou conservation
New caribou conservation actions in effect as of November 1st. Delayed winter access is in effect for the ranges of the A La Peche (North Boundary), Brazeau (South Jasper) and Tonquin caribou herds in support of caribou conservation. These areas can still be enjoyed after February 28th (Feb. 16th in the Tonquin). Help us protect Jasper’s threatened caribou by choosing other areas of the park for winter recreation until these dates.
In support of caribou conservation, Parks Canada will delay winter recreational access to three areas of important caribou habitat in Jasper National Park (Tonquin, A La Peche and Brazeau caribou ranges) starting in November 2013. Only approximately 13 of over 120 winter trails, ice climbing and mountaineering routes in the park will be affected by the conservation actions, and these will still be available for use later in the winter when the days are longer and temperatures generally warmer. Parks Canada has also committed to implement new winter offers in two areas: Decoigne (Highway 16 West of Jasper) and Pyramid Lake. While some enhancements will be in place for winter 2013-14, the intent is to assess these areas in more detail for future development as key winter recreational nodes. Parks Canada’s decision supports both caribou conservation in these three areas and enhanced winter recreational opportunities within the park.
How does this affect you?
Starting in winter 2013 - 2014, recreational access will be delayed until after February 28th in the North Boundary and South Jasper areas of the park, and until February 15th in the Tonquin Valley (area descriptions below and maps attached). You can access these areas for winter recreation after this time, and experience new and enhanced offers this winter in the Decoigne and Pyramid Lake areas. Parks Canada would like to thank all who contributed to this decision making process through workshop attendance, meetings and comments submitted. The decisions represent a balance between achieving important caribou conservation gains and maintaining a variety of quality winter recreational opportunities in Jasper National Park.
- In February 2013, Parks Canada released proposals for delayed winter recreational access in three areas of important caribou habitat to the public for review. While these proposals represent significant conservation gains for caribou, they would impact some winter backcountry recreational users.
- Parks Canada actively engaged the back-country user community in two workshops held in Edmonton and Jasper in February 2013, to inventory winter recreational use in the park and identify potential areas for enhanced winter recreational opportunities. Input from these workshops and the subsequent public review period have been used to draft options that modify the original proposals and consider new opportunities for winter recreation use.
- As part of on-going public engagement in this decision making process, representatives from Parks Canada (including the Park Superintendent) met with a group of stakeholders in a collaborative working session aimed at finding a balanced approach to caribou conservation and winter recreation by reviewing the recommended options. The group was comprised of representatives from business, municipal government, the tourism industry (provincial and local), environment interest groups and outdoor recreational user groups.
- Parks Canada presented modifications of the proposals to the working group, and identified potential options for enhanced winter recreational opportunities based on input received from winter recreational users, stakeholders and the public. Modification options included adjustments to boundaries of the areas to accommodate ice climbing and mountaineering access, and options for timing changes to the Tonquin Valley proposal. For winter recreational opportunities, Parks Canada committed to exploring new and expanded winter recreation nodes in two areas: Decoigne (Highway 16 West of Jasper) and Pyramid Lake.
- Caribou in Jasper National Park belong to the Southern Mountain Population of woodland caribou listed as Threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
- Three of the four woodland caribou herds found in Jasper National Park have dropped to critically low numbers and are at risk of disappearing. In 2011, Parks Canada released the Conservation Strategy for Southern Mountain Caribou in Canada’s National Parks proposing actions to address caribou declines.
- Parks Canada's priority is to reduce or eliminate the five key threats identified as contributing to caribou declines in the mountain national parks. With caribou numbers critically low, it is important to address these threats now.
- Proposed changes to winter recreational access in Jasper National Park is one action to address the threat of facilitated predator access. Caribou are adapted to live at high elevations, where deep snow helps them avoid predators. Packed winter trails into important caribou habitat can increase the risk of predation on these small herds.
- It is well documented that wolves travel more efficiently in winter on packed trails and this increases their ability to hunt in these areas.
- While predation by wolves on caribou is natural, by enabling wolves access to caribou winter habitat we can dramatically increase predation rates and threaten these few remaining caribou.
Backgrounder - Caribou Conservation and Winter Recreation
Backgrounder - Caribou Conservation in Jasper National Park
Backgrounder - Winter recreation in Jasper National Park
Details of the Decision
Parks Canada plans to implement the following actions in support of caribou conservation and enhanced winter recreational opportunities in Jasper National Park. For area details please see attached maps.
1. Tonquin caribou range
Extent: the adjustments to winter recreational access will be expanded from the current Cavell Rd /Astoria Trail area to include major access corridors including the Astoria River, Portal Creek and Meadow Creek drainages.
Timing: The February 15th timing for the seasonal access point restriction maintains the current caribou conservation gains that were achieved when the seasonal restrictions were first put in place in the winter of 2008-09 and provides continued business opportunities for commercial and non-profit licensees to support quality winter experiences, with a review of timing pending outcomes of discussions with licensees regarding a number of year-round visitor experience, conservation and business issues.
2. Brazeau caribou range
- West of Highway 93 adjustments will be made to winter recreational access between Bubbling Springs and Beauty Creek Hostel to accurately reflect winter caribou habitat use.
- East of Highway 93, adjustments will be made to winter recreational access as originally presented but with the boundaries modified to accommodate ice climbing access in the Sunwapta Canyon, Beauty Creek and Tangle Ridge areas; and the Poboktan/Maligne Pass area will not be included until the Maligne Valley Implementation Strategy has been completed, recognizing that winter use of Maligne Pass is tied to use of the Maligne Valley.
Timing: with the exception of the aforementioned areas, adjustments to access in the Brazeau caribou range will delay winter recreational use from Nov. 1st until Feb. 28th annually.
3. A La Peche caribou range
Extent: access will be restricted in the North Boundary area of the park encompassing the A La Peche caribou range with modifications made to the boundaries to accommodate some mountaineering routes, and to more accurately reflect winter caribou habitat use.
Timing: adjustments to access in the A La Peche caribou range will delay winter recreational use from Nov. 1st until Feb. 28th annually.
4. New and Enhanced winter recreational opportunities
As part of implementing the caribou conservation actions as described, Parks Canada will work with stakeholders to explore new and expanded winter recreation nodes in two areas: Decoigne (Highway 16 West of Jasper) and Pyramid Lake. Opportunities to enhance winter recreation at these nodes would include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter walking and access to new subalpine and alpine ski touring terrain that is not in important caribou habitat. The intent would be to assess these areas in more detail for future development as new and expanded nodes, but also to begin implementing some new winter offers at these locations in the winter of 2013.
Considerations for other areas
- Direction regarding winter recreational access in the Maligne Valley will be determined as part of an upcoming process to develop an implementation strategy for the Maligne Valley Area Concept. There will be opportunities for public engagement as part of this process.
- An ongoing caribou risk assessment, led by Dr. Fiona Schmiegelow at the University of Alberta, will inform decisions about the future winter management of the Whistlers Creek area.
For further information
For media enquiries, contact Alisson Ogle, 780-852-6109
For caribou conservation information, visit www.pc.gc.ca/caribou or contact:
Shelley Bird, 780-852-6204
For information on the Maligne Valley Area implementation strategy development process, contact: Shawn Cardiff, 780-852-6108