Top 10 Conservation Stories
National parks protect some of Canada’s most diverse and spectacular natural environments. The breathtaking scenery and inspiring natural surroundings in national parks provide the perfect setting for tuning into nature, learning about it, appreciating it, respecting it and pledging to protect it.
In order to ensure Yoho National Park remains healthy and unimpaired for future generations, Parks Canada is working to maintain or restore its ecological health. Here are some of our success stories.
Protecting and presenting the Burgess Shale
Monitoring wildlife populations behind the lens
Conducting a cutthroat trout inventory
Lake O'Hara: a place for people, a place for nature
Caring for the Earth’s most precious resource
Restoring the natural role of fire
Restoring aquatic connectivity
Partnering to eliminate rail-related causes of grizzly bear mortality
Monitoring wildlife on the Trans-Canada Highway
A Burgess Shale fossil © Parks Canada
The Burgess Shale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is regarded as one of the most significant fossil finds in the world and is uniquely important for understanding evolutionary biology and 500-million-year-old Cambrian life forms. To protect and promote this non-renewable resource, a management framework was developed to control and monitor site access, foster scientific research and provide opportunities for visitor experience and learning. Proactive site protection, including new fencing, remote surveillance cameras and intrusion alarms, has minimized theft and vandalism. To enhance public learning, new signage was installed at trailheads and fossil sites in 2008, and in 2009, a Parks Canada guided-hike program to the Burgess Shale fossil beds was launched. Scientific research is ongoing on the fossils held on behalf of Parks Canada and Canadians at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and exciting new discoveries continue to be made. In 2011, the ROM and Parks Canada announced the launch of the Burgess Shale online exhibition, as part of the Virtual Museum of Canada. The website provides, for the first time ever, an immersive journey into the world of the bizarre prehistoric creatures that formed the foundation for all animal life on Earth half a billion years ago.
The elusive wolverine © Parks Canada
As part of a carnivore monitoring project, motion-activated cameras are capturing wildlife images in various locales in Yoho National Park. These hands-free cameras are mounted on trees or encased in rock cairns to monitor wildlife use in both frontcountry and remote backcountry locations. Each time something passes the camera’s infrared beam, an image is captured. Compared with traditional wildlife research techniques like radio-collaring, the “camera trap” is non-invasive and relatively inexpensive. Tracking carnivore populations over the long-term may provide insight into why carnivores are present in some areas of the park and absent in others. This type of information can reveal potential ecological problems in the park that require attention. In the near future, Canadians and visitors from around the world will have the opportunity to view and learn stories behind these “wild images” on the Kootenay National Park web site.
Engaging youth © Parks Canada
An important part of Parks Canada's mandate is to encourage environmental stewardship. A flagship example of this is the work done by Parks Canada wildlife staff and co-op students who delivered environmental education presentations to students in the Rocky Mountain School District since the late 1990s. Topics have included wolves, elk, wolverine, birds, bighorn sheep, badgers, rubber boas, ecosystems, and Parks Canada restoration projects, to name a few. Audiences have ranged from Kindergarten to Grade 7 classes in Golden, Invermere, Edgewater, Canal Flats, and Kimberley, and have even extended beyond the school system to include other interest groups. In the last five years, more than a thousand wildlife “stewards” have taken part in over 60 presentations.
Cutthroat trout © Parks Canada
Westslope cutthroat trout are native to the Mountain National Parks and are declining significantly throughout their range in British Columbia. Recently listed as a species of Special Concern under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, in Yoho, the species appears to be locally extirpated in its historic range. However, as a result of past stocking in areas outside their historic range, they occur in lakes in the O’Hara Valley. An education campaign was launched in 2008 to encourage voluntary catch and release of cutthroat trout in Lake O’Hara to ensure healthy future populations. In 2009, the Westslope cutthroat trout possession limit in all of Yoho National Park was lowered to zero from two fish to protect this pure, localized population. Aquatic ecosystems are more than just homes for fish and by studying what happens away from terra firma, gives park managers a fuller idea about the overall health of the park’s ecosystem.
Grizzly bear at McArthur Pass © Parks Canada
Lake O’Hara is a favourite spot for both people and grizzlies. But a serious encounter between hikers and a grizzly bear at the Odaray Plateau in 1992 highlighted the need to devise a plan to allow the two groups to coexist in harmony. This led to a five-year research project and a new human-wildlife management approach for the area. Research identified key grizzly bear habitat and an important wildlife corridor. In 1999, Parks Canada modified closures and rerouted some trail sections in McArthur Pass to better integrate visitor use with these important ecological areas. Today, users of the Odaray-Highline Trail are encouraged to self-register and voluntarily limit trail use during periods of peak bear activity. On-going evaluation of these management actions will help us adapt our approaches to ensure the protection of wildlife and habitat, while maintaining visitor opportunities across the greater landscape.
Field, B.C. wastewater treatment plant © Parks Canada
Responsible water use is something Parks Canada takes seriously. In 2004, the Field wastewater treatment plant was replaced at a cost of $3.2 million, and the results are encouraging. Designed to meet Parks Canada's leadership targets for effluent quality, the most stringent effluent targets economically achievable in North America with current technology, the water treatment plant is an excellent example of caring for the environment by tending to crucial infrastructure. Since 1998, water consumption in Field has decreased by 84%, as a result of an extensive capital project replacing both the water distribution system and wastewater collection system, the installation of water meters and full cost-recovery of the water utility. Taking care of the world’s most precious resource today will go a long way to ensuring the long-term enjoyment of Yoho National Park tomorrow.
Hoodoo Creek prescribed burn © Parks Canada
In 2004, Yoho National Park's first large-scale prescribed fire was completed in the west end of the park. Along with meeting important ecological goals including improved forest health and forage for animals ranging from rodents to grizzly bears, the 1414-hectare Hoodoo Creek prescribed burn created a fuel break along the southwestern boundary of the park. This protective guard set the stage for two prescribed fires planned for 2011– Ottertail and Mt. King– west of the community of Field, British Columbia. In addition to creating fuel breaks in the Kicking Horse Valley to reduce the risk of future wildfires, prescribed burns aim to mimic the historic fire cycle in Yoho National Park, while improving resistance to future pine beetle outbreaks by increasing forest diversity. This multi-year approach reveals the scope and logistical complexities required to achieve today’s progressive fire management program. Other protective measures, such as recent forest thinning to reduce forest fuels near the community of Field, British Columbia, Emerald Lake Lodge, and Twin Falls Chalet National Historic Site, reflect the first priority of Parks Canada's fire management program: the safety of people, facilities and surrounding lands. As a world leader in fire management Parks Canada knows the short-term inconveniences of fire such as impaired views and smoke are far outweighed by the long-term benefits of improved forest health, restoration of natural processes and protection from catastrophic wildfire.
Aquatic restoration at work © Parks Canada
Imagine—you’re trying to get from Point A to Point B and there’s something in your way. For humans, this could mean changing plans or taking another route. Fish don’t have this luxury. A recent inventory of culverts along park roadways in the mountain national parks found that the majority were blocking or partially blocking fish movement. Parks Canada is using Action on the Ground funding to help give fish and other aquatic species in Yoho National Park a fin up by restoring aquatic connectivity with culvert repairs. Culvert restorations restore fish access to important habitats for spawning, rearing, feeding and overwintering. Restoration work is planned for Boulder Creek and Monarch Creek in 2011-2012. While not as majestic as the large carnivores like cougars and wolves, fish play an important part in overall health of Yoho National Park.
Bears and people have shared the Rocky Mountain landscape for thousands of years. But within the last hundred years, our human presence has grown rapidly within and around the mountain parks.
While the railway plays a significant role in Yoho National Park, its presence, like roads and other infrastructure, complicate the dynamic between nature and development, challenging a bear’s ability to secure the space and habitat they require to make a living. But there is renewed optimism for reducing the risks to grizzly bears and other animals in the park.
In October 2010, Canadian Pacific (CP) and Parks Canada entered into a $1-million joint action plan to mitigate rail-related animal mortality; highlights include continued work on grain hopper car spills, review of railway infrastructure, potential fencing and wildlife crossings, and new research. In the coming weeks, Parks Canada and CP will announce the first initiatives coming from the joint action plan to further mitigate rail-related grizzly bear mortality in Yoho National Park. It is believed that by working together and incorporating innovation and the best science available, a reduction in grizzly bear mortality can be achieved.
Wildlife sightings along the Trans-Canada Highway © Parks Canada
Here’s an interesting map: each dot indicates wildlife sighting along the busy Trans-Canada Highway running through Yoho National Park. A map like this provides vital information on where animals have a natural tendency to want to cross the road, providing invaluable statistics to help park managers determine the design and placement of wildlife crossing structures and fencing in the event of future highway twinning. This work takes dedication: for the last two years, Parks Canada staff have driven the entire highway bimonthly, recording wildlife sightings. These locations are cross-referenced with wildlife mortality databases to pinpoint highway “hot-spots” for wildlife.
Mountain goat monitoring at Mt. Bosworth is a unique aspect of the highway monitoring project in Yoho. Wildlife monitoring along the already-twinned sections of the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park is mainly comprised of montane wildlife species. Here in Yoho, sub-alpine mountain goats pose a challenge: What types of highway crossing structures will they use? What are their migration patterns across the road? Park staff are monitoring goat movement on both sides of the Trans-Canada Highway east and west of the Lake O’Hara turn-off to answer these questions and help reduce the challenges posed by Canada’s main transportation corridor running through the middle of the park.