Is Parks Canada more concerned about conservation or cash?
by SorayaOh on November 25, 2016 - 8:19pm
There are over 40 national parks in Canada and their fate and management is in the hands of a federal agency. A new report put out by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness society (CPAWS), a charity dedicated to protecting Canadian Wilderness, suggests that recent management has been failing to put the health of the ecosystems above the tourism aspects of the parks. This report is discussed in the article “Watchdog group critical of Parks Canada management” by Gloria Galloway, for the Globe and Mail.
CPAWS found that that emphasis on scientific research and public opinion going into decision-making is declining in Parks Canada’s choices. Instead, the management decisions have become increasingly based on marketing and development. According to the CPAWS report, there are 31% less staff with a focus on conservation work, employed at Parks Canada compared to 2012. Even more alarming is that in the agency’s budget from 2015, only 13% of spending was dedicated to conservation efforts. More staff and money are continually going towards visitor experience programs compared to the protection of the park’s wilderness.
CPAWS is very concerned about parks such as Banff and Jasper because they are the oldest parks, and have the most visitors per year. Despite the constraints already put on wildlife and the landscape by the high amount of traffic, both of these parks have large expansion projects proposed such as a new $66 million bike trail and ski resort. CPAWS argues that large developments should be reconsidered and the money put back into preserving the parks’ nature.
The development of Parks Canada has been an evolving process since 1911. In 1998 it was restructured into the agency it is today. The transformation meant that the parks started to be managed more like a business, with a CEO, corporate financial goals, and increased marketing tools. I find this worrying because if resource management starts to fit into a capitalist market scheme, that requires infinite growth and protected areas are finite and cannot be infinitely exploited for funds.
Parks Canada serves as a tool that helps to create and develop the state that is Canada. Parks Canada does this by creating jobs for the people, generating income for the state, preserving valuable territory and building a national identity. In this regard I think it is a good idea to use marketing to develop a brand and increase interest in these natural places. I grew up camping in different national parks, and they are definitely one of the things that make me most proud to be Canadian. Jacques Cousteau said that “people protect what they love” and so I think it is important to expose everybody to the natural world in order for people to see that it is worth fighting for and protecting.
I think one of the biggest issues and point of conflict with national park management is how we define park value. The future of the park will be shaped depending if we see it as important for its incoming-generating capability as a tourist attraction versus its ecological importance. Overall, I think we need to manage parks as is best for the ecosystem and its inhabitants. Any opportunity for humans to be able to experience these natural, protected areas is beneficial but management decisions should be made with responsibility to the land before worrying about generating income.