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Plans for Ten New Canada Parks Met With Skepticism

Donald Dawson
for National Geographic News
October 10, 2002
 
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 system—and particularly the national park system that still needs to be done—are 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.

Momentum Building

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 partners—the provinces and territories, Aboriginal and rural communities, industry, environmental groups, and others—to 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.

"The momentum is clearly building," said Harvey Locke, vice president of conservation for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, an environmental group that lobbies for more national parks and better protection of existing ones.

Locke's group has declared that the government isn't doing enough to protect the parks it already has.

The group cites Banff, established in 1885 as Canada's first national park, as an example of the government's inadequate protection of existing parks. Today, the group says, two large communities, three ski resorts, a four-lane expressway, and five million human visitors annually have put the future of the park's wildlife at risk.

New Sites Undetermined

"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," said Locke. "We will be expecting the government to allocate funds in the next budget to do this work."

The world's second largest country after Russia, Canada has 39 national parks and two marine conservation areas, one in Georgian Bay on the Great Lakes and one in the Saguenay region of Quebec, near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.

Of the ten new national parks to be added, the federal government has already negotiated agreements for two, Ukkusiksalik National Park in the sparsely populated northern territory of Nunavut and Gulf Islands National Park Reserve on Canada's Pacific coast.

Ukkusiksalik, which shelters polar bears, caribou, peregrine falcons, and musk oxen, is in a remote region of the country few Canadians ever see. The Gulf Islands, however, are relatively close to both Vancouver, B.C., and Seattle, Washington. As a result, the area is popular for recreation, known more for its boating opportunities than for the fragile ecosystems of the 13 islands that will comprise the new marine park.

Details of the remaining eight national parks have yet to be worked out.

The government is negotiating with provincial and municipal governments, Aboriginal groups, and others to establish five of the new parks—two in Labrador and one each in Nunavut, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories.

Sites have yet to be chosen for the other three. Possibilities being considered by the government include the interior of British Columbia, a mountainous area that straddles the British Columbia-Yukon border, and southern Ontario.

Canada's New Parks

Negotiations have been completed to establish two new national parks:

Ukkusiksalik National Park
• Located in Nunavut territory
• Intended to protect a large, pristine watershed
• Home to polar bears, caribou, peregrine falcons, musk oxen

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
• 13 islands at British Columbia's southwestern tip
• One of Canada's most biologically diverse and endangered natural areas
• Aim is to protect small island ecosystems and parts of the headlands, shorelines, and uplands of larger islands

Negotiations are underway to establish five more national parks in these areas:

Torngat Mountains
• Located in the eastern province of Newfoundland and Labrador
• Area's fjords are home to polar bears and caribou

Mealy Mountains
• Also located in Newfoundland and Labrador
• Would preserve mountain tundra, upland bogs, boreal forest, spectacular wild rivers
• Inhabited by caribou, moose, black bears

Lowlands
• Located in Manitoba, in central Canada
• Intended to protect large tracts of boreal forest as well as rare bat caves, fresh water marshes, and the longest sand spit in Canada

Bathurst Island
• Located in Nunavut
• A major calving ground for the endangered Peary caribou

East arm of Great Slave Lake
• Located in the rugged Northwest Territories
• Marked by dramatic cliffs and deep, clear waters
• Inhabited by moose, bears, and wolves

These areas are under consideration as possible new national parks:

British Columbia's interior dry plateau region
• Marked by flat, rolling plains, long lakes, and deep, narrow river valleys

Yukon and British Columbia's northern interior plateaus and mountains
• Region was shaped by volcanoes and glaciers
• Includes British Columbia's largest lakes

Southern Ontario's Great Lakes–St. Lawrence region
• A watery transition zone dominated by the rugged geology of the Canadian shield, a sheet of ancient rock that covers much of central Canada

Additional Resources on Canada from National Geographic:
National Geographic magazine's Resources on the Bay of Fundy's shorebirds
Driving Tour: Cape Breton, Canada
National Geographic magazine's Relicts of the Pleistocene: Canada's Musk Oxen
Photographer William DeKay: Down Home Canada

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