Polar bears in Wapusk National Park© Murray Gillespie
State of the Park Report 2011 - Executive Summary
Wapusk National Park State of the Park Report 2011 © Parks Canada
The purpose of a State of the Park Report (SoPR) is to report to Canadians on the current state of the national park. This SoPR describes the current health of Wapusk National Park (Wapusk). It is an assessment of the park based on research and monitoring, and includes Aboriginal and local traditional user perspectives on their relationship with the park. The assessment includes an overview of how well the Parks Canada Agency is protecting ecological and cultural resources, facilitating visitor experience opportunities, and enhancing public appreciation and understanding. In addition, this report highlights park achievements and corporate performance and identifies key issues.
This is the first SoPR for Wapusk National Park. This report offers an opportunity to examine the successes and challenges of park management decisions that were taken in the Wapusk National Park Management Plan (Parks Canada 2007a). The SoPR provides a context piece for both Aboriginal and traditional local use, in addition to an overview of First Nations and local perspectives related to the health of the land and their relationship with Parks Canada. With its comprehensive overview of the state of the park, the report is a key tool in the upcoming review of the park’s management plan that will commence in 2011. [Please note that review of the Wapusk NP Management Plan has been deferred. Management plans are now required to be reviewed every ten years - instead of five years - under the Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2012.]
Located on the western shores of Hudson Bay in northeast Manitoba, Wapusk National Park lies in the transition zone between taiga and tundra. Wapusk is Cree for “white bear”, the park’s iconic species. A ten-member cooperative management board that consists of representatives from the Government of Canada, Province of Manitoba, Town of Churchill, York Factory First Nation and Fox Lake Cree Nation makes recommendations to the Federal Minister responsible for Parks Canada on matters related to planning, management and operation of the park.
Figure 1. Rating for Wapusk National Park in Achieving Parks Canada Agency’s 2007-08 Corporate Plan Expectations © Parks Canada
The State of the Park Summary (Table 1) provides an overview of the report with the ‘state of’ indicators for resource conservation, visitor experience, and public appreciation and understanding. Due to insufficient information, the condition and trends could not be ranked for many of the indicators. Many park monitoring programs are in their early stages or have not yet been established, which limits the ability to report on the state of the park. A review of the ecological integrity monitoring program including the identification of priority indicators and measures is planned for the future which will reflect updated direction from Parks Canada.
Wapusk has worked to meet Parks Canada Agency’s performance expectations, set out in the 2007-2008 corporate plan (Parks Canada 2007b). The park operated under interim management guidelines from 1996 to 2007 and baseline information is only now being developed. Many performance expectations are not rated (Figure 1) due to the relatively recent establishment of the park.
In addition to the Agency’s overall performance expectations, performance goals and actions specific to Wapusk were outlined in the 2007 park management plan. Good progress in meeting these expectations has occurred.
A summary of key issues is presented at the end of the report, based on the assessments in each of the preceding sections. The key issues are:
- expanding habitat impacts by lesser snow geese affects other wildlife;
- the changing arctic climate; and
- expensive and challenging access for visitor opportunities and local users.
Table 1. State of the Park Summary
|Resource Conservation - Ecological Integrity |
||The condition of the wetlands is not rated as these measures are likely to change as the monitoring program is refined. At present two of four measures related to lesser snow geese are rated as fair; nesting density and extent of habitat degradation, while nest phenology and reproductive success are classified as being in good condition. Permafrost and shrub density and height are currently not rated.|
||The tundra indicator is not rated as there is only one measure. Further monitoring is required to fully assess the snowpack measure in the tundra indicator.|
||The forest measure of fire is considered to be in good condition following a natural burn cycle with limited suppression. However, as this is the only measure monitored, the condition of the forest indicator is not rated.|
||The freshwater indicator is not yet rated as the monitoring program is currently in development. Overall surface area of water in the park and number of lakes has decreased with the greatest change observed in coastal fen regions and small ponds across the park.|
||Ecological thresholds for three of the measures used to assess the health of this indicator have not been established but they are supported by thirty years of statistical analysis. The current condition for the marine indicator is fair based on long-standing research, with a declining trend.|
||The coastal indicator is not ranked as there is only one measure related to Canada goose productivity.|
|Species at Risk
||There are four species in the park listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act that were assessed. Information on many of these species is limited therefore further monitoring is required before an assessment can be made.|
|Resource Conservation - Cultural Resources |
||Overall, buildings and structural remains, and documented objects are in good condition, and the condition of archaeological sites is fair. Landscape and landscape features are not rated; a formal inventory and evaluation of cultural landscapes is required.|
|Selected Management Practices
||The park has a good foundation and preliminary work is complete; however a more comprehensive and robust program, and products need to be developed to improve cultural resource management practices.|
|Visitor Experience - Trend |
||Visitation has increased approximately 1.6% over the past five years. Park visitors include clients of the three licensed tour operators, university and high school students, media and participants in unique tourism initiatives. A Visitor Experience Assessment is planned for 2011.|
||Due to the remoteness of the park and low visitor numbers, on-site interpretation is limited (<100 people/year). Learning has not been formally measured. |
||Park visitors who have submitted comment forms (i.e., University of Manitoba students) have noted high levels of enjoyment and satisfaction. However, this indicator is not rated as there has not been a formal visitor survey.|
||Visitors who have participated in student programs or special visits have expressed very high levels of satisfaction and enjoyment. This indicator is not rated as information has come from limited audiences.|
||Connection to place, the measure for this indicator, is new to Parks Canada and has not yet been measured at Wapusk.|
|Public Appreciation and Understanding|
|Appreciation and Understanding
||The Visitor Centre, located in Churchill’s train station, is the focal point for outreach efforts. Approximately 7,400 people visit the centre each year as part of their visit to Churchill. Other outreach education initiatives have been reactive, based on invitations to schools or events.|
||A strategic stakeholder engagement plan is not in place. However, there are diverse opportunities for stakeholder involvement, and the site has excelled in collaborating with researchers and tour operators.|
Note: Refer to the glossary for definitions related to condition and trend.
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