Elk Island National Park

Executive Summary

Parks Canada administers a world-renowned system of national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas. Canada’s national parks are established to protect, for all time, special places representative of Canada’s natural regions, and to connect Canadians with the enduring natural and cultural legacy of these places. Under the Canada National Parks Act, management plans are a legal requirement for national parks, and serve to guide Parks Canada decision-making and actions in protecting, managing and operating a national park.

Elk Island National Park of Canada is located 45 km east of Edmonton, Alberta. It is the sixth oldest and seventh smallest of Canada’s forty-two national parks. Initially created as a wildlife sanctuary for elk in 1906, Elk Island has evolved as a national park. The park’s purpose is to protect a representative portion of the Southern Boreal Plains and Plateaux Natural Region and to enable present and future generations to appreciate and experience its outstanding and representative characteristics.

The 2011 management plan weaves together the three elements of Parks Canada’s mandate -- conserving heritage resources, facilitating visitor experiences, and fostering public appreciation and understanding – into a new park vision, reintroducing you to nature. The plan also outlines the key strategies for managing the park, addressing the challenges and opportunities identified in the Elk Island National Park of Canada 2010 State of the Park Report. The focus of the management plan is to:

  • Instill in the hearts and minds of Canadians that Elk Island National Park is a sanctuary – a place for wildlife and people; it is the pride of one of Canada’s major urban centres – Edmonton; and it is a welcoming and learning place, where public participation is strong and new traditions are created; and, 
  • Showcase to Canadians, Elk Island National Park’s continued conservation legacy not only in protecting and re-establishing wildlife populations, but also as a nationally significant protected heritage area contributing through partnerships to the biodiversity and sustainability of the Beaver Hills.

Following is a description of the four key strategies:

Welcoming Visitors and Canadians

As the Canadian mosaic continues to become more diverse, with an increasing proportion of new and urban Canadians, there is a growing risk of disconnect with nature, generally; and with parks and protected areas, specifically. To ensure Canadians have opportunities to enjoy, experience, and learn about the natural and cultural heritage of Elk Island National Park, Parks Canada is focusing its effort on the creation of visitor offers that are attractive to these groups and that achieve a connection to place. By engaging these groups, Parks Canada’s vision can be shared with all Canadians, connecting them with their nature and history.
The Welcoming Visitors and Canadians strategy focuses on Elk Island National Park being more recognizable as a national park; more inviting and accessible for the greater Edmonton area population of urban and new Canadians, who may be unfamiliar with a natural park experience; and more appealing to Yellowhead Highway travellers as a place to visit or return.

Inviting Participation for Enjoyment, Learning and Advocacy

Inviting Participation engages Canadians in the whys and the hows of managing and experiencing Elk Island National Park. It also provides tangible ways for the public to participate in the maintenance and restoration of the park’s ecological integrity. It includes increasing opportunities for Canadians to be involved with Parks Canada through volunteer and other experiences; developing a framework to engage Aboriginal peoples in park management and programs of relevance and importance to them; promoting the park as a living classroom for the many educational institutions in the region; and enabling park stakeholders to get more involved in park management through an advisory process.

Practicing and Showcasing Leadership in Conservation

Originally established to protect one of the last remaining herds of elk in Canada, Elk Island National Park has since become a leader nationally and internationally for its conservation leadership and best practices. Herds of elk, and plains and wood bison are managed in the only national park in Canada that is completely fenced. Nursery herds of bison have been trans-located throughout North America and into Russia, supporting many re-population conservation initiatives. Successfully managing this diverse ecosystem within a small fenced area requires effective active and adaptive management practices, and an integrated ecological integrity monitoring program. Sharing these practices, stories, and experiences with the public, stakeholders, and Aboriginal communities along with showcasing and involving the public in the park’s rich heritage of wildlife conservation is a priority for the park. Elk Island National Park will provide the opportunity for Canadians to make a difference – to become part of the park’s century of conservation legacy.

Beyond the Fence: Working with Others in Support of Ecological Integrity and Sustainability

Elk Island National Park is central to maintaining the biodiversity of the Beaver Hills. The park plays a vital role in protecting one of the last remaining habitat corridors in east-central Alberta, and is part of the 200 km2 Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve. The park is identified as one of two protected core areas of the proposed Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Elk Island National Park is also located adjacent to an area of intensive industrial development known as the Industrial Heartland of Alberta. Beyond the Fence focuses on opportunities and means for the park to participate in regional planning processes for lands adjacent to its boundary, and to achieve shared goals for protecting ecological integrity and cultural resources, and promoting quality visitor experiences.

In support of the key strategies, the management plan includes three specific management approaches for a park Welcome Area; the Astotin Lake Area; and the Area South of the Yellowhead Highway. The management plan also includes: an updated park zoning plan with regard to protection and use; a summary of park administration, operations and environmental stewardship; and a strategic environmental assessment of the plan.

The management plan includes targets and actions used to implement, evaluate and report progress in achieving the park objectives and ultimately the vision. The plan and its implementation is formally reviewed five years after its tabling in Parliament to ensure that it remains relevant and effective in the management of Elk Island National Park.

Elk Island National Park - 2011 Management Plan (PDF, 3.2 MB)


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