Common menu bar links

Jasper National Park of Canada

Spotlight on Ecological Integrity

Top 10 conservation stories: Jasper National Park

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 national parks remain healthy and unimpaired for future generations, Parks Canada is working to maintain or restore the ecological health of national parks. Here are some of our success stories:

Ecological Integrity Monitoring

Parks Canada has implemented an Ecological Integrity Monitoring Program for all mountain national parks including Jasper National Park. This is the first time Parks Canada has attempted to create a monitoring system that is consistent across the network and reports on the ecological state of the parks in a rational and systematic way to support decision-making.

Bird banding with children in Jasper National Park 
Bird Banding with children in Jasper National Park 
© Parks Canada

Each park is monitoring elements that are common nationally and unique to their respective ecosystems. Examples include amphibian and bird abundance, water quality, forest structure, glacier mass balance and regional human use.
Jasper and the other mountain national parks have committed ecologists to lead this program and develop a five-year implementation strategy. Program merits are based on project sustainability, comprehensive ecological factors and scientific defensibility.
The program monitors current conditions to measure changes in key ecological indicators over time and provides advice to the various management teams for appropriate actions in response to changes if needed. Perhaps more importantly, ecological monitoring provides opportunities for Canadians to deepen their connections to nature through programs like Citizen Scientist.

Through volunteer opportunities, interested individuals and groups work directly with Parks Canada staff to collect data which will help shape ecological management decisions. The results of ecological monitoring are valuable, too, in educating Canadians about the nature of mountain ecosystems and the effects – whether positive or negative – of human choices and activities on the health of our national parks.

Caribou Conservation

Just as their likeness emblazoned on a coin, the fate of Woodland caribou seems to rest there; a Canadian quarter in mid-toss. If it lands “tails,” caribou conservation is a success; if it lands “heads,” they are gone forever. Parks Canada is working hard to improve the odds for the southern mountain population of Woodland caribou that has long been one of the defining elements of Jasper National Park.
In Jasper, changing predator-prey dynamics and human-facilitated predator access to caribou habitat are key threats to caribou. On-going research, as well as caribou, wolf and elk monitoring, are creating greater understanding of the complex relationships at play in mountain ecosystems. Based on this research and identified threats, recovery actions are in place to help reduce the risks to caribou.
To address the issue of predator access, Jasper National Park implemented a seasonal closure of the Cavell Road in 2009. Caribou are well adapted to life in deep snow, which normally would give them a natural advantage over predators like wolves that have difficulty hunting in deep snow in winter. The creation of packed trails for skiers reduces this advantage, leading wolves into otherwise inaccessible areas. The Cavell Road, popular with winter outdoor enthusiasts, offered wolves a direct route into important winter habitat for caribou. Working with commercial and recreational users of the Cavell area, a closure period was initiated to keep the snow unpacked in this area at times when it would have the most significant impact. The road reopens in time for late winter recreational use—around the time when snow usually becomes more compact and wolves are able to travel more freely through the subalpine landscape even without the help of trails.
While these and other positive steps exist to assist caribou recovery, the fate of Woodland caribou in Jasper National Park remains uncertain. On-going research and effective implementation of a recovery strategy will be required to tip the coin in favour of the caribou.

Woodland caribou in Jasper National Park 
Woodland Caribou 
© Parks Canada

Three Valley Confluence Trail Project - Sharing the Land

Three valleys – the Athabasca, Miette and Maligne- come together in the Three Valley Confluence to provide important montane wildlife habitat and movement corridors.

Mountain biking on Jasper's extensive trail system 
Mountain biking on Jasper's extensive trail system 
© Parks Canada

In 2004, Parks Canada developed and implemented a trail plan for the Three Valley Confluence with the benefits of improving park experiences, enhancing conservation and providing stewardship opportunities to influence decision-making by Parks Canada. The area is shared with the Jasper townsite, home to 4,700 residents and a 280-km trail network used by hikers, bikers and horse users. To date, approximately 240 people have volunteered 2,050 hours participating in trail construction and rehabilitation efforts. Conservation initiatives included relocating trails from wildlife corridors and wetlands while enhancing the quality of experiences for all trail users. The results are encouraging and have enabled park visitors, residents and wary wildlife species such as grizzly bear, wolf and cougar to share the same landscape without conflict or displacement.

Palisades Stewardship Education Centre

New Canadians canoeing on Lake Edith 
New Canadians canoeing on Lake Edith
© Parks Canada

Awareness is growing of Parks Canada’s premiere youth education centre where learning and collaboration flourish with partners, including Grande Yellowhead Public School Division, Marmot Basin Ski Area, Outward Bound Canada and Robert Bateman’s Get to Know Program. The centre delivers exceptional experiences to Canadian Youth, targeting students in Grades 9 to 12. Students participate in ecology and culture-based projects and undertake outdoor recreational activities to discover ways to experience the mountain landscape and ecosystem. Goals of the Palisades Stewardship Education program are to foster passion and appreciation for Canada’s National Parks and National Historic Sites among young Canadians.

Jasper National Park Collaboration with Foothills Research Institute

Jasper National Park has a long history of working with others, including the Foothills Research Institute (FRI) , a government- and industry- funded research organization committed to determining best management practices for sustainable forestry and resource extraction in the Rocky Mountain eastern slopes and foothills.

© Steve Michel

As a partner, Jasper National Park contributes to guiding FRI-sponsored projects together with the Alberta provincial government, forestry and oil and gas companies. One of the most successful collaborations with FRI includes the grizzly bear ecology and distribution work in the foothills region, conducted by Dr. Gordon Stenhouse. In collaboration with this ongoing program, Parks Canada and FRI have developed a detailed habitat model for grizzly bears in the park, determined the number and demography of grizzly bears in the northern half of the park and understand the links between bears in the park and populations to the east. This will lead to a comprehensive monitoring program that will enable Parks Canada to measure changes to bear distributions in the park and relate it to activities in the region.

FireSmart - ForestWise

Reducing the threat of fire together 
Reducing the threat of fire together
© Parks Canada

Hundreds of forested communities across Canada are threatened by wildfires. In Jasper National Park, the townsite and nearby developments make it difficult for Parks Canada to accomplish objectives to restore the natural process of fire and maintain important wildlife habitat. In order to safeguard the community, respect stakeholder concerns and encourage natural landscape processes , Parks Canada has developed the FireSmart - ForestWise program, in partnership with the Municipality of Jasper and several commercial leaseholders including the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
By combining forest ecology restoration techniques with fuel reduction, Parks Canada has created an environment that optimizes conditions for wildlife while respecting important public values. These techniques have now been applied to more than 1000 hectares (10 km2) of Jasper’s "wildland/urban interface” zone, and draw international attention from fire and community managers facing similar issues. In Jasper, developed areas of the park are now better protected from wildfire, and the stage is now set for restoring fire on the greater landscape of the Athabasca Valley and surrounding watersheds in Jasper National Park.

Haller’s Apple Moss

Haller's apple moss 
Haller's apple moss 
© Parks Canada / René Belland

Haller's apple moss is a small green moss that grows in a low, dense mat in moist and shady areas. Under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), Haller’s Apple Moss is considered ‘threatened.’ Parks Canada is the SARA-responsible agency for Haller’s apple Moss and leads the recovery effort for the species. There are 10 known populations in North America, two of which exist in Jasper National Park. Conservation biologists have found that species with small populations are particularly at risk of being wiped out locally. The overall goal for recovery is to maintain or increase the population sizes at all existing locations over the long term. This means protecting populations from known threats and closely monitoring conditions at each site. In cooperation with the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, Parks Canada approved a Recovery Strategy for Haller’s Apple Moss in September 2010.

As more is known about the biology and distribution of Haller's apple moss, Parks Canada interpreters, researchers and recovery team members can promote the importance of this special moss and its requirements.

Connecting aquatic ecosystems

Steep or hanging culverts can fragment aquatic ecosystems by hindering the passage of fish and other aquatic species. Between the community of Jasper and the park’s east gate, the railway, highway and pipeline have altered water flows at 52 sites along the Athabasca River, making aquatic connectivity a key challenge. Parks Canada initiated a culvert inventory in 2005 to identify priorities for corrective work. Since then, culverts on Cottonwood, Cabin and Pyramid creeks have been fixed.

Before and after aquatic restoration at Pretty Creek 
Before and after aquatic restoration at Pretty Creek 
© Parks Canada

The private sector has also contributed to improving fish passage in the park. In 2009, Kinder-Morgan replaced 12 culverts on tributaries of the Athabasca River with bridges or open bottom culverts, one of several aquatic net gain projects carried out during the reclamation phase of the TransMountain pipeline twinning project.

Today, the work continues. In 2010, Department of Fisheries and Oceans engineers visited several culverts and provided designs for in-stream structures (e.g. rock weirs) that will improve connectivity. Parks Canada fixed a culvert at Talbot Lake in the fall of 2010 using one of the new designs, and more work is planned for the future. Ensuring the health of aquatic ecosystems plays into the larger overall health of Jasper National Park.

Ski area site guidelines - striking a balance between enjoyment and protection at Marmot Basin

Engaging students at the Marmot Learning Centre 
Engaging students at the Marmot Learning Centre
© Parks Canada

In February 2008, Parks Canada approved the Marmot Basin Site Guidelines for Development and Use. In support of conservation, the site guidelines set permanent limits to ski area growth and development, including the removal of 119 hectares (18%) of leasehold lands for the protection of important habitat for species such as woodland caribou and grizzly bears. Currently, Parks Canada is working with Marmot Basin to initiate wildlife studies related to mountain goats and caribou to gather data to support ski area long-range planning.

Restoring the land through non-native plant removal

Some jobs never seem to end, like pulling those dandelions from the front lawn. Now, imagine if your front yard covered 11,000 square kilometres. Jasper's land restoration program is challenged to restore disturbed and damaged areas of Jasper National Park with healthy native plant communities. Invasive non-native plants (weeds) out-compete native plants, reduce biodiversity and degrade wildlife habitat - limiting the spread of invasive non-native plants is a key step in that process.

A job welldone by one of many weed crews 
A job well done by one of many weed crews 
© Parks Canada

In 2010, a weed crew spent 444 person-days pulling an incredible 7,600 kg of invasive non-native plants in the Jasper townsite, along park roadways and in wilderness areas. Crews used a variety of treatments including mowing, weed-whipping, hand-pulling and herbicide to target more than 15 priority invasive species. Of those, the worst offenders are toadflax, knapweed, yellow clematis, Canada thistle, ox-eye daisy and tall buttercup. With the help of industry, businesses and volunteers, many disturbed areas like gravel pits, old dumps and abandoned roads have been successfully returned to wildlife habitat status in the past few years.