National Parks Act
Parks Canada mandate states that Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks. Commitment to ecological integrity was first enshrined in the National Parks Act in 1988. This commitment has since been broadened and the maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity is the first consideration in the fulfilment of Parks Canada's responsibilities for the national parks. In addition, the new Act formally establishes seven new national parks (Gros Morne, Wapusk, Grasslands, Aulavik, Auyuittuq, Sirmilik and Quttinirpaaq), together with one national park reserve (Pacific Rim), and formally adds Middle Island to Point Pelee National Park. The Act also provides greater protection for wildlife, flora and cultural resources within the parks, controls commercial development in park communities, and significantly raises penalties for offences under the Act.
A focal point of legislative and policy direction has been to bring into place mechanisms to contain and manage the relentless forces of commercial development which have posed inherent difficulties with national parks for the past half century. The revised Canada National Parks Act provides the mechanism for establishing maximum limits to development in townsites and makes Parliament the final arbiter for any future changes.
In March, 2000, the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks released its report, detailing the work required for the preservation and restoration of ecological integrity within our national parks, with successful examples of what could be achieved. The Report highlighted the importance of raising Canadians' awareness and understanding of ecological integrity as a step towards building support for its maintenance. In a positive and immediate response to the report, a comprehensive Action Plan with four key themes formed the initial response: making ecological integrity central to legislation and policy; building partnerships for ecological integrity; planning for ecological integrity; and renewal of the Parks Canada organization.
The Agency's firm commitment
to ecological integrity is clearly reflected in the national parks actions
that have been taken since the Action Plan was put forward. For example,
regulations have been completed, designating more than 90 percent of the
Rocky Mountain national parks as wilderness areas. Banff, Jasper, Yoho
and Kootenay National Parks are the first to receive this designation
and, upon completion of management plans, comparable regulations will
be applied to most of the other national parks.
The results of the commitment
to put ecological integrity at the heart of the planning process are already
being seen. In Newfoundland, the new plans for Terra Nova National Park
include a project to improve sections of the Trans-Canada Highway through
the park, by applying design principles whose objective is the creation
of an ecological parkway. The new plan will significantly
improve fish and mammal corridors, and provide for alternative approaches
to the management of roadside vegetation. At Fundy National Park, a naturalization
plan has been adopted to reduce the human footprint on park facilities
and help restore native bio-diversity.
The Panel had listed several
priority recommendations for immediate implementation - preconditions
to seeking an increased budget for ecological integrity implementation.
All these preconditions have been met, including the hiring of an Executive
Director of Ecological Integrity to participate on Parks Canada's Executive
Board, and the launching of a national ecological orientation and training
program for all Parks Canada employees.
Parks Canada has released a report entitled First Priority: Progress Report on Implementation of the Recommendations of the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks. This progress report demonstrates Parks Canada's commitment to address the recommendations of the Panel over the longer term, as new funds become available.
The North is home to some
of Canada's newest national parks. On August 12, 1999, the federal government
and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association signed an agreement allowing work
to proceed towards the formal establishment of three national parks in
Nunavut. Auyuittuq and Quttinirpaaq (Ellesmere Island) National Park Reserves
have become national parks and a new one, Sirmilik, was created to represent
the Eastern Arctic Lowlands Natural Region.
In Ontario, in partnership
with Parks Canada and corporate sponsors, the Nature Conservancy of Canada
purchased Middle Island, Canada's most southerly point. Located five kilometres
off Point Pelee National Park in the Canadian waters of Lake Erie, this
18-hectare island contains many rare Canadian natural features. In the
future, as part of Point Pelee National Park, the island will be afforded
the highest level of protection.
At Manitoba's Riding Mountain
National Park, co-operation is a major component of the renewal plan.
In addition to being an important part of local recycling programs, the
park is a key participant in the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve, and
co-operates with adjacent land and water conservation groups. The park
is also a partner with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the provincial
Department of Conservation, and local cattle producers. This team approach
is mitigating the incidence of tuberculosis in elk.
In northern New Brunswick,
the provincial government is restricting the removal of peat from bogs
adjacent to Kouchibouguac National Park to prevent any ecological disturbances
to these natural groundwater filtration systems, many of which flow into
After more than three years of intense negotiations with Domtar Forest Products and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the White River Forest Management Plan is now a reality. The plan, covering forest areas immediately adjacent to Pukaskwa National Park, includes significant amendments to forest harvesting practices, amendments that were put forward by park staff.
Kejimkujik National Park was
highlighted by the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National
Parks as a positive example of what a national park could be. It has been
selected as a pilot site for a Parks Canada Species at Risk initiative,
and the park's Ecosystem Science Manager received the Gold Leaf Award
from the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas. The award recognizes the
outstanding efforts and achievements that contributed to the conservation
and understanding of Canada's ecological diversity.
Parks Canada has continued to work towards the government's commitment to complete the Canada's system of National Parks and to establish a system of National Marine Conservation Areas, which involved working in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal Peoples, and a range of other partners and communities.
These and other activities to safeguard ecological integrity are helping to ensure that Canada's national parks, in the words of the Canada National Parks Act, will be "maintained and made use of so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada/Parks Canada 2001
Last Updated: 2001 04 04
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