OTTAWA - Given that the first priority of Canada’s National Parks is to protect ecological integrity, the Green Party of Canada believes that theme-park like developments are inappropriate. “I was shocked to learn that a private American company would be allowed to privatize a viewpoint in Jasper National Park,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands. “This project sets a damaging precedent of using our parks for profit and in the process putting sensitive species at risk.”
Now the subject of public outrage, a ‘Glacier Discovery Walk’ is being proposed for a section of Jasper National Park, consisting of a metal walkway over the Icefields Parkway. The project is proposed by American-owned Brewster Canada. Environmental groups are concerned about the insufficient data on how such a project would affect mountain goats and other species.
“Canada’s National Parks are not meant to be money-makers,” said May. “They are primarily supposed to protect a range of ecosystems and to allow Canadians to appreciate the wonderful natural spaces and wildlife that we are so lucky to have in this country.”
Section 8(2) of the Canada National Parks Act makes “maintenance of restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks.”
There has been a trend within Parks Canada to allocate budgets away from resource conservation into visitor experience. In 2007, $167 million was spent on visitor experience, rising to $225 million in 2010. Money for ecological integrity is now decreasing: $214 million in 2007 was cut to $192.6 million in 2010. Overall, Parks Canada’s budget has been cut by almost 25% in the last 17 years.
“Both the federal government and Parks Canada must realize that protection of our ecosystems is worth investing in, especially as the climate is changing,” said May.