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Chris Rider

Parks Canada losing sight of mandate: CPAWS

Parks Canada is losing sight of its primary mandate to preserve nature,

By Sidney Cohen on July 12, 2016

Parks Canada is losing sight of its primary mandate to preserve nature, and this could have negative implications for the future of the Yukon’s national parks, says the local chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

Though the federal agency is not developing new tourism infrastructure in Yukon national parks at the same rate as in Banff and Jasper national parks, “that tourism is being prioritized over wilderness protection is certainly troubling,” said Chris Rider, CPAWS Yukon’s executive director, in a statement released Monday.

Rider’s comments follow the release of the CPAWS report.

It criticized Parks Canada for shifting its focus away from preservation and toward increasing visitation through the development of “non-nature focused recreational activities,” such as the expansion of the Lake Louise ski resort in Banff National Park, which are putting Canadian parks at risk.

The report also admonished the federal agency for a lack of transparency in decision-making and for apparently letting slide its State of the Park reports, which are supposed to be made public every five years but have “virtually disappeared.”

As far as tourism infrastructure development goes, the concerning projects are happening primarily in Banff, Jasper and other parks in the South, said Jason LaChappelle, conservation programs and communications co-ordinator at CPAWS Yukon; the Yukon is safe, for now.

“Due to their remote access, pressures from visitation are not a current threat to national parks in the Yukon, and we are generally pleased with the direction that Parks Canada is taking in the territory,” Rider said in his statement.

Right now, CPAWS Yukon is “generally fine” with Parks Canada’s management of the Yukon’s national parks, and indeed, Kluane, Ivvavik and Vuntut national parks could sustain more visits from Yukoners and tourists, he said.

“Our main concern would be with the precipitous decline in funding for science and ecological monitoring,” he said.

“That could impact our parks in the future.”

The 2008 State of the Park report for Kluane (the most recent report that is publicly available) assessed the park’s biodiversity, the preservation of its ecosystems, public appreciation of the park and its management.

In 2008, the integrity of Kluane’s ecosystems were already in decline as a result of climate change, according to the Parks Canada report.

Glaciers were melting at a faster rate, southern mammals were migrating north and there was an “unprecedented” outbreak of spruce bark beetle.

“Continued monitoring is important and future adaptation may be necessary,” the 2008 report reads.

It is precisely this kind of monitoring that is slowing down at Parks Canada today, according to CPAWS.

Climate change is a “huge issue for the North,” LaChappelle said.

“Things are changing, and we need to monitor the situation. If you don’t monitor, you don’t know what’s going on.”

LaChappelle also noted that there has been a decline in the use of traditional knowledge to evaluate the conditions of national parks.

In the 2008 State of the Park report, it was noted that elders were concerned about how warmer winters they were experiencing would affect animals and the kokanee salmon in Kathleen Lake.

As part of celebrations for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, Parks Canada is making entry to all national parks free.

Overall, LaChappelle said, this is a good thing, because Canada’s parks deserve to be honoured and appreciated, but he hopes Parks Canada will properly plan for an influx of visitors.

What is happening in Banff and Jasper, he said, is that Parks Canada is turning these regions into “a vacation spot as opposed to a place where you go to interact with nature and appreciate unspoiled nature.”

Comments (6)

Up 6 Down 2

Just Say'in on Jul 14, 2016 at 1:46 pm


Here is one for you but don't just skim it, read the whole thing and hundreds of other studies if you like. It is a FACT.


Up 4 Down 11

Mark Sanders on Jul 13, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Most Parks Canada parks in Yukon are in good condition. If you travel south you will see overuse and wide trails and way too many people.

What scares me is that there will likely be a lobby to open our parks up to more motorized use. Seems like some people have decided the only way to enjoy nature is by moving through it on motorized vehicles.

Up 6 Down 9

BnR on Jul 12, 2016 at 6:48 pm

Just Sayin
Please cite your "facts" to back your assertions of the Kluane ice field size increasing. If nothing else, the retreat of the Kaskawulsh and subsequent re-routing of its drainage disproves your claim.
Please read this excellent study on the St. Elias by the U of C.

Up 6 Down 7

Sam Dion on Jul 12, 2016 at 5:22 pm

I have been fishing in Kathleen Lake for 29 years, summer and winter. I have never ever seen a net in Kathleen Lake. I live in nearby Haines Junction. As for "Just Say'in" above claiming that the glaciers are increasing not decreasing: what cave in Antarctica did you just come out of ???

Up 21 Down 2

ProScience Greenie on Jul 12, 2016 at 3:49 pm

This is the same CPAWS that is not fighting tooth and nail for a huge park to be created in the Peel River Watershed. Very odd bunch.

Up 25 Down 3

Just Say'in on Jul 12, 2016 at 3:12 pm

First of all le'ts get some facts straight. The Ice fields in the St. Elias range are increasing not decreasing. Universities have been studying the exact same things every year for the last forty at the institute. More papers have been written and thesis's done on owl droppings and you name it every year since the 60's.

As for Kathleen Lake if the Elders are concerned about the Kokanee then how about they quit netting the s@#t out of them every winter. The few that I have caught there have had net tracks on them and the fisheries person that volunteers to clean your fish said he sees it all the time and there is nothing they can do about it. So there you go.

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