Need for Reserved Park Space in Canada
by mszatkow on October 5, 2017 - 5:45pm
Canada is globally recognized as a country that prides itself on the conservation and preservation of our land. CBC News’ article: Canada trails G7 in protecting land, parks advocates say is painting a very different picture. The author, Susan Lunn, refers to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – identifying a lack of reserved space for protected parks in Canada, ultimately causing negative impacts to species at risk and local First Nations.1 The provincial and federal Government are also largely involved – by imposing research-related budget cuts on Parks Canada and deciding what lands are, and are not, reserved.1 The problem here is simply the disregard for ecosystem health in Canada. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says that the solution lies in moving from “a collection of protected areas to a connected network.”1 Prime Minister Trudeau modestly states that “. . . we have a lot of catching up to do.”1 The author refers to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society to stress that only 10.6% of our lands are protected, far less than other developed countries with similar large land masses.1 The agreement made at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity states that 17% of Canadian land is supposed to be reserved by 2020.1
The decline of ecosystem health is driving this media coverage. National parks remain a contested issue – should the land be reserved, or should the Government decide to develop on the land? This narrative, along with other environmental issues, can be described using Anthony Downs’ issue-attention cycle. This concept is based on the premise that environmental issues, such as degraded ecosystems and parks, find their way to the public eye, remain a prominent issue, and then - though still usually entirely unresolved – gradually disappear from the center of public attention.2 The Government must establish priorities and make trade-offs. In most cases, the Government will choose to make decisions based on the economic impact that it has. For example, much more financial capital would be generated if a land mass was utilized to transport oil, compared to the amount of capital that would be generated from constructing and maintaining a reserved park. Cases such as this move us further away from a healthy environment, and closer to what can only be described as an economy that is in a staples trap. A staple can be defined as a raw or unfinished primary resource commodity.3 Our economic state currently is dominated by the sale of staples, which sets the pace for economic growth. Experts stress that exploitation of staples generates “rigidities” that lead to cycles of economic vulnerability and dependence, thereby recreating the state of a pre-industrialized economy.3 This can be seen in our modern society, through the Government’s inability to promote the health of the environment over the health of our economy.
The Government is aware that something must be done but, rather than just acknowledging a problem, actions must be taken. Government involvement is required to rectify this issue for many reasons: providing Parks Canada with proper funding would be one. Identifying what land is off-limits for development would be another, once consultations are complete – many of which are currently pending and waiting on a response from the Government. I wonder, when will our Government make responsible land-use planning a priority over exploitation of our natural resources?
Lunn, S. (July 24, 2017). Canada trails G7 in protecting land, parks advocates say. Retrieved
Mitchell, B. (2015). Resource and Environmental Management in Canada: Addressing Conflict
and Uncertainty. Oxford University Press. pp. 18-19.
Roth, R. Evolution of Canadian Resource Management: Part 2. Management of the Biophysical
Environment (GEOG 3210). University of Guelph. Lecture delivered on: September 27, 2017.