One of the federal government's important Red Book commitments in 1997 was to establish an expert panel to provide advice on maintaining the ecological integrity in Canada's national parks.
After the lessons of the Banff-Bow Valley Study and the subsequent strong actions taken in the Banff Community Plan and the Banff National Park management plan, a national review was clearly needed.The panel has concluded that our national parks are under serious threat from stresses originating both inside and outside the parks, and that unless action is taken now, deterioration across the whole park system will continue.
This landmark report is a call to action for Parks Canada and for all Canadians to live up to our collective responsibility to protect the existing national parks and to expand the parks system.
In response to the Panel's report, the following immediate and longer-term actions are being announced to make ecological integrity our clear priority. This is the best way to ensure that current and future generations of Canadians and other visitors can continue to enjoy a natural experience in our national parks and derive the many social, environmental and economic benefits they provide.
Making Ecological Integrity Central in Legislation and Policy
- We will move ahead with Parliamentary consideration of proposed amendments in the Canada National Parks Act, introduced on March 1st, to reconfirm that maintaining ecological integrity is the first priority.
- The Act will also formally establish seven new national parks (Wapusk, Aulavik, Gros Morne, Grasslands, Quttinirpaaq, Sirmilik and Auyuittuq) and one park reserve (Pacific Rim) and streamline the process for establishing new national parks.
- We will work with Parks Canada employees and other partners to develop a Charter for the Parks Canada Agency that sets out the core values of the organization centred around protection of ecological integrity in national parks.
- A draft of the Charter will be completed for review at the Parks Canada Round Table to be held before the end of this year.
- We will ensure that ecological integrity is central to the reports to Parliament which are required under the Parks Canada Agency Act.
- The next State of the Parks Report will be tabled in Parliament later this year.
- We will accelerate the legal designation of wilderness areas in national parks across the system.
- The designation of wilderness areas in the Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay national parks will be completed by June 2000.
Building Partnerships for Ecological Integrity
- We will work to improve relationships and cooperative activities with Aboriginal people, particularly at the local level; continue to respect existing Aboriginal and treaty rights; and find new ways to work with Aboriginal people toward common goals of conservation, education and economic development.
- Agreement signed this week with the Smith Landing First Nation regarding Treaty Land Entitlement in Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada is one example.
- We will work collaboratively with federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal government agencies to build partnerships for effective ecosystem-based management by participating in regional planning processes, biosphere reserves, model forests and World Heritage initiatives.
- Pacific Rim National Park Reserve will be a core protected area in the recently announced UNESCO biosphere reserve in the Clayoquot Sound region.
- We will advance park values more actively by participating in local and regional processes which may affect the ecological integrity of national parks, and by building partnerships and cooperative arrangements that respect constitutionally-defined jurisdictions.
- Parks Canada has recently been asked by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador to participate in the environmental assessment of proposed forestry activities adjacent to Gros Morne National Park.
- We will work with those who market and use national parks to ensure an understanding of the ecological integrity mandate so that we attract park visitors to the right place, at the right time, in the right numbers and with the right expectations.
- We will seek the required funding to expand the national parks system in collaboration with provincial/territorial governments, Aboriginal organizations, local communities, industries, private citizens and NGO's.
- The Agreement signed last August with Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association establishing three national parks in Nunavut is an example.
- We will collaborate with provinces and territories toward the completion of Canada's family of parks and protected areas.
- Canada's Parks Ministers have agreed to make a public report this summer on the implementation of their 1992 Statement of Commitment and the next steps to be taken.
Planning for Ecological Integrity
- We will revise the Parks Canada Guide for Management Planning:
- to clearly define ecological integrity as the core of national park management plans;
- to require a 5-year State of the Park Report for each park; and
- to provide for an Annual Management Plan Implementation Report.
- We will review the appropriateness of visitor activities during the park management planning process with public consultation.
- We will continue to encourage Canadians to visit, appreciate and enjoy their national parks – in ways that leave them unimpaired for future generations.
- There is no intention of removing historic uses such as existing golf courses and ski hills; they will be carefully managed to mitigate and reduce their impacts.
- New management plans for Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay and Waterton Lakes National Parks, as well as community plans for each of the park communities, will be approved in the near future.
- There have been extensive public consultations in the preparation of these plans and they will be consistent with the Panel recommendations.
- The report of the Panel on Outlying Commercial Accommodations in the mountain national parks will be released in the near future and will be reviewed in the context of the Ecological Panel Report.
- We will ensure that maintenance of ecological integrity is the primary consideration in Parks Canada's assessment of any capital redevelopment of facilities, accommodations and infrastructure belonging to both Parks Canada and to private or commercial operators. Accordingly, capital redevelopments should:
- be consistent with Park Management Plans, Community Plans and park establishment agreements;
- be based on a needs analysis for that facility, accommodation and/or supporting infrastructure and be acceptable in the context of current ecological understanding;
- respect clearly-established limits on development and contain the facility footprint within these limits;
- contribute to visitor appreciation and understanding of national parks;
- protect cultural heritage;
- demonstrate leadership in environmental management;
- provide adequate staff accommodation; and
- comply with environmental assessment obligations including consideration of cumulative effects and environmental management systems (EMS) to achieve no net negative environmental impact.
Renewal of Parks Canada to Support the Ecological Integrity Mandate
- We will establish the position of Executive Director, Ecological Integrity.
- This will be a full member of the Parks Canada Executive Board; will be the national functional leader for ecological integrity across the organization; will recommend the national science strategy; and will make regular reports on ecological integrity to the Board.
- We will ensure that adequate scientific advice is provided in decision-making at all management levels in Parks Canada.
- We will reinforce the responsibilities and accountability of Parks Canada managers with respect to ecological integrity.
- We will develop a national training and orientation program in ecological integrity for Parks Canada staff, managers and partners.
- This program will be implemented over the next two years.
- Parks Canada managers will facilitate an open discussion with staff about the implementation of this response to the Panel report.
- The ecological integrity training program will build on this dialogue.
- We will evaluate the Panel's detailed recommendations and develop longer term implementation strategies and related funding requirements for government consideration.
- This will include a national science strategy focussing on organizational and staffing requirements within Parks Canada and formal connections with universities and other science-based agencies.
- Implementation will require committed, long term funding beyond Parks Canada's current budget.
- The Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada, will report publicly on Parks Canada's responses to the Panel Report at the Parks Canada Round Table to be held before the end of this year.