For national parks, our mandate is to protect lands and waters that represent Canada's natural diversity, to do so in a way that restores or maintains ecological integrity, and in a way that allows for appropriate visitor activities and appreciation. Therefore environmental quality can be thought of in three ways. Visit the national parks system and ecological integrity pages for more information.
For the ecological integrity mandate of Parks Canada, environmental quality decreases as undesirable physical, chemical and biotic factors increase in the environment. Physical examples include waste materials and disturbed lands like old quarries and cultivated land. Chemical examples include organochlorine pollutants and acid precipitation. Biotic examples include invasive introduced species and pathogenic organisms that threaten the viability of wildlife populations.
For the health of Parks Canada's visitors and staff, environmental quality deteriorates in the presence and concentrations of physical, chemical and biotic factors addressed in applicable health standards and guidelines, such as PCBs from old insulating and lubricating oils, fine airborne particulate from gasoline and wood combustion, and certain strains of Escherichia coli in drinking water.
For the enjoyment of parks by visitor, good environmental quality reflects the presence of all the organisms, features, processes and associations that should be present in a truly natural system. It also reflects the absence of factors that mar the appreciation of natural landscapes, such as visually intrusive roads and buildings, regional smog and industrial smoke plumes, and noise and light pollution from traffic and urbanised communities.
The ecological integrity of national parks is under assault from many sources. Some are global, such as the accidental movement of exotic, invasive species by global transport and trade. Others are external but local and regional, such as the drift of smog and other air pollution from urban regions. Some are internal to parks, such as the development of park infrastructure leading to habitat loss and fragmentation of critical wildlife areas and movement corridors. Click here for more discussion of stresses to national parks, and some of the ways that Parks Canada is addressing them.
Many of these stresses are outside the scope of a "made-in-Parks-Canada solution," and for those we work with regional stakeholders to find solutions, or contribute to national and international initiatives to research and regulate them. Those stresses that originate in national parks can be tackled directly, and this is where are environmental management policy and system play a role.
To fulfill its mandate, Parks Canada commits to manage its operations in a way that maintains the ecological and commemorative integrity of Canada's national parks. In so doing it makes a major contribution to the federal government's sustainable development strategy.
To these ends:
An EMS provides an overall framework for the management of an organization's environmental issues. It covers issue identification, the setting of performance measures and targets, the assignment of responsibilities and procedures, the tracking of progress towards targets, and the review of an organization's environmental management goals. Each park or site summarizes its goals in an environmental action plan and carries out the actions that lead to the greatest improvement in environmental quality. Parks Canada has identified eleven aspects of its operations that have an actual or potential impact on the environment:, whether on the local ecosystem or on a regional to global level. Four of them are specifically mentioned in Parks Canada's Sustainable Development Strategy (available online soon).
The others are:
From time to time, the EMS and its aspects will be reviewed to ensure good environmental practices and reporting take place, and to decide if some issues have been resolved or others need to be added.