Each national park requires a management plan describing its vision and broad direction. The management planning process takes place every 10 years and involves: assessing the current state of park resources; determining key trends, pressures and opportunities; setting priorities, general actions and performance measures; and seeking input on these from Canadians.

Because national parks are change over time in response to many factors, a state of the park assessment (SOPA) is the first step in the management planning process. It provides a ‘report card’ on the condition of specific natural and cultural resources and aspects of Parks Canada’s work and describes whether the condition shows an improving, declining or stable trend. Condition ratings are determined through on-going monitoring, surveys and other forms of feedback, gathered since the previous Park Management Plan was approved in 2010.

There are six groups of key indicators: ecological integrity, cultural resources, external relations, Indigenous relations, visitor experience and built assets. Using established thresholds, indicators are rated as: Good, Fair, or Poor

The State of the Park Assessment uses data from a variety of sources, such as ecological monitoring results, visitor surveys, attendance counts, and built asset inspections. A standardized approach allows Parks Canada to compare parks and sites across the Parks Canada network. Based on a review of key indicators, the following are the results for Banff National Park:

Ecological Integrity

We evaluated 13 measures for each of 3 important ecosystems in Banff National Park to rate their overall condition.

Forest ecosystems Good

Monitoring and removal of invasive plants, the restoration of natural processes such as fire, and actions to decrease wildlife mortality have all contributed to improving conditions.

Alpine Tundra (treeless, high elevation) ecosystems Good

Birds, small mammals, and non-native vegetation measures are all in good condition. Mountain goat populations are in fair condition. This ecosystem may be affected by broad issues like climate change that cannot be addressed solely at the park level.

Freshwater ecosystems Poor

While water quality is rated as ‘good’, decades of poor culvert design and placement, and historical stocking of non-native fish in park waters resulted in an overall poor rating. Some recent progress has been made with culvert replacements and 40 Mile dam removal.

Cultural Resources Fair

Banff’s archaeological sites, heritage buildings and engineering works, and cultural objects were all rated as fair. Cultural landscape sites have not been identified or evaluated.

External Relations Good

Bringing Banff National Park to Canadians where they live and engaging them in meaningful ways is the focus for external relations. Over the past 10 years, communication approaches have evolved and Parks Canada now reaches out to millions through tools such as You Tube, Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, working with partners and volunteers also helps to increase public support and understanding of the park. All external relations indicators; outreach, digital communications and media relations, have been rated as ‘good’.

Indigenous Relations

As Parks Canada is in the early days of building its relationship with interested Indigenous nations, indicators are not rated. Parks Canada believes it is important to determine the indicators and measures in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples based on a shared understanding and evaluation of what is important to them.

Visitor Experience Good

Although the park experiences high visitation, visitors can access a wide range of opportunities and the quality of the experience has been identified as high.

All visitor experience indicators; number of visits, enjoyment, learning and satisfaction, are rated as ‘good’ based on visitor surveys conducted in the park.

Built Assets Good Fair

Banff National Parks has 1,279 assets worth approximately $2.3 billion. They include buildings, dams, highway, road, bridges, visitor facilities, utilities, communications and more.

Highways, roads, vehicle bridges and visitor facilities are rated as ‘good’.

Buildings and dams are rated as ‘fair’.