Canada Creates 10 New Parks And 5 Marine Reserves
The government of Canada has announced its intention to create 10 new parks and five new national marine conservation areas over the next five years. It is the most ambitious plan to expand and protect the country’s natural areas in 117 years, since Canada’s first national park was established in 1885 at Banff, Alberta.
The plan, which will expand the Canadian parks system by almost 50 percent, builds on commitments made by Prime Minister Jean Chretien at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien goal is to represent each of Canada’s 39 natural regions with at least one national park.
“We will work with all of our partners,” Chretien said, “the provinces and territories, Aboriginal and rural communities, industry, environmental groups and others to complete this effort.”
Alison Woodley of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), said, “Canada has one of the last opportunities in the world to protect vast stretches of magnificent wilderness for future generations. The Prime Minister has clearly recognized this great opportunity and we applaud him for that.” Specific sites for national parks have been selected in seven natural regions– British Columbia’s Gulf Islands, Manitoba’s lowland forests, the East Arm of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories, Bathurst Island and Ukkusiksalik in Nunavut, and Labrador’s Torngat Mountains and Mealy Mountains. Sites for the three remaining national parks are being identified by Parks Canada.
To protect portions of its coastline, the longest of any nation in the world, Canada intends to establish five new national marine conservation areas, adding an estimated 15,000 square kilometres to the system in ecologically unrepresented marine regions.
Three sites have been identified — two in British Columbia — in Gwaii Haanas off the Queen Charlotte Islands, and in the southern Strait of Georgia. The third is in Western Lake Superior. Sites for the remaining two marine conservation areas are yet to be finalized.
“National parks are in our hearts, they are important to our identity as Canadians. With this far-reaching plan, we are fulfilling a Canadian dream,” said Heritage Minister Sheila Copps. “We are safeguarding some of our most valued natural areas for generations to come.”
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society welcomed the move, but called on the government to underwrite its announcement with funding commitments.
Harvey Locke, CPAWS vice president for conservation, said, “It is clear that parks will not be established nor will the declining health of existing national parks be addressed without money committed to the cause. We will be expecting the government to allocate funds in the next budget to do this work.” The Green Budget Coalition, a broad coalition of environmental groups in Canada has recommended an investment of C$165 million over five years for new national parks and national marine conservation areas.
In addition to creating the new parks and marine reserves, the government has pledged to “accelerate its actions” over the next five years to improve the ecological integrity of Canada’s 39 existing national parks. This will implement the action plan arising from the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada’s National Parks, whose report was endorsed by Copps in April 2000.
The panel recommended an investment of C$328 million over five years to restore the ecological integrity of Canadas existing national parks. The government said that funds to support this plan “will be included in the fiscal framework.”
Negotiations will continue in the coming months to advance and finalize agreements for particular sites.
Provided by the the Environmental News Service.