State of the Park Assessment 2018: Executive Summary
Each national park requires a management plan that describes 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; and seeking input from all Canadians.
Because national parks are dynamic and change over time in response to many factors, a state of the park assessment is the first step in the management planning process. It provides a ‘report card’ on the condition of natural and cultural resources and aspects of Parks Canada’s work in a national park 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.
Key indicators are grouped into six main themes–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, here are the results for Jasper National Park.
The diversity of Jasper’s Rocky Mountain ecosystems and species is reflected in our ecological monitoring program; we track fifteen measures to rate the overall condition of three important ecosystems. Some measures are impacted by broad issues like climate change and regional land use changes that cannot be addressed solely at the park level.
Freshwater ecosystems Good
Freshwater ecosystems are rated good overall because three measures—amphibians, stream biotic health and river fish—are in good condition. Lake fish and aquatic connectivity are in fair condition. Aquatic connectivity has improved since the last reporting period due to restoration work; 61% of watershed catchment areas are now fully connected.
Forest ecosystems Fair
Forest ecosystems are in fair condition. Two measures for this indicator, multi-species mammal occupancy (abundance and distribution of a suite of large mammals) and elk density, are rated as good and stable. Forest terrestrial birds and the regional density of roads and motorized trails are in fair condition. Most fire-adapted habitats still have a fire deficit despite an active prescribed burn program; a mountain pine beetle outbreak is dramatically changing park forests and altering wildfire risk.
Alpine ecosystems Poor
Alpine ecosystems are rated poor overall because the following two measures are in poor condition. The three South Jasper caribou herds are at risk of imminent extirpation (local extinction); their numbers are so low they cannot recover on their own. Park glaciers continue to retreat under a changing climate. Whitebark pine are in fair condition but are declining due to blister rust and mountain pine beetle. Alpine terrestrial birds are also in fair condition. A baseline for alpine extent has been established.
Cultural Resources Good Fair
Nine thousand years of human presence have produced a rich fabric of archaeological sites, archaeological and historic objects, and historic buildings.
Two out of three indicators—archaeological sites and historical objects—are rated good. Archaeological sites are largely intact and park zoning and regulations provide a high level of protection. The 286 historical objects associated with the park and the over 35,000 catalogued archaeological objects are in good condition overall. Heritage buildings are rated fair; the majority of the 37 federal-heritage-listed buildings in the park are in stable condition.
Visitor Experience Good Fair
Almost 2.4 million Canadians and international visitors had the opportunity to experience Jasper’s natural and cultural heritage firsthand in 2016-17. Visitation has increased by 20% since 2011-12.
Visits, the indicator based on park attendance, is rated as good because attendance has exceeded visitation targets for the park. Enjoyment and learning are also rated good; 98% of visitors surveyed reported enjoying their visit to the park and 75% felt they had learned something about the park’s natural heritage. Satisfaction is rated fair as there is room for improvement in value for entry fee and pre-trip information.
Indigenous Relations Fair Poor
We work with more than 20 Indigenous communities with ties to the park. Indigenous partners rated five indicators related to the park’s Indigenous engagement program.
Three indicators—partnerships, accessibility and mutual respect—are rated fair. The Jasper Indigenous Forum, established in 2006, has been a good model of collaboration and partnership with Parks Canada. Initiatives, such as free park access, the development of a cultural use area and harvesting permits, have facilitated traditional activities. Parks Canada has demonstrated a commitment to building mutual respect, trust and understanding. Traditional knowledge and support are rated poor; more work is needed to integrate traditional knowledge into park management and to facilitate economic and employment opportunities.
External Relations Good
We reach audiences where they live through various outreach, partnering, and stakeholder engagement initiatives; media relations; and web and social media presence.
Both indicators—promotions and support—are rated good. We are connecting with more people through events and venues in the Edmonton area and other cities in western Canada. Our social media presence continues to grow with more Facebook and Twitter followers. More than 100 volunteers contribute approximately 2,500 hours each year to Jasper’s volunteer program.
Built Assets Good Fair
More than one thousand assets (e.g. highways, roadways, bridges, buildings) support visitor activities and park operations in Jasper National Park.
The majority of park assets are in fair and improving condition. Thanks to recent investment, there are no longer any groups of assets in poor condition.