for National Geographic News
Environmentalists in Canada are taking a wait-and-see approach to a recent announcement that the country will protect a wilderness area larger than Portugal by forming ten new national parks over the next five years.
"We're happy that the prime minister has made it and we're hopeful that in the February budget that the minister of finance will sign the check," said Jim Fulton, executive director of the Canadian-based David Suzuki Society, which explores human impacts on the environment, with an emphasis on finding solutions.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien vowed last Thursday to create the parks.
"I tip my hat to him," said Fulton. "But an awful lot of it is 'buns.' An awful lot of us who know the national park systemand particularly the national park system that still needs to be doneare asking, 'Where's the beef?'"
Under the plan announced by Chrétien and Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, Canada would expand the total area of the country's national parks by almost 50 percent, to more than 244,000 square kilometers (9,421 square miles).
Five new marine conservation areas will also be added.
Crétien, in making the announcement, said, "Canada is blessed with exceptional natural treasures. ...We owe it to Canadians, and to the world, to be wise stewards of these lands and waters."
He promised to "work with our partnersthe provinces and territories, Aboriginal and rural communities, industry, environmental groups, and othersto complete this effort."
The announcement was not unexpected.
Governor General Adrienne Clarkson had referred to creation of the new parks and marine areas earlier in the week in a speech reopening the country's parliament after a longer-than-usual summer break.
Chrétien first committed the government to creating the parks and marine areas last month at the United Nations' World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa. He did not say at the time how long he thought it would take to implement the plan.
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