At the time this article was
written Sandra Davis was Regional Director General, Western Region, Canadian
Parks Service; Art Webster was Minister of Tourism for the Yukon, Bill Brewster
was the MLA for Kluane in the Yukon Legislative Assembly; and Edward Clark was
Speaker of the Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly. This is an edited
version of a panel discussion which took place the annual Canadian Regional
Parliamentary Conference held in Alberta in 1989.
Sandra Davis (Parks Canada): Let me say at the outset that the view of
the Canadian Parks Service is that rational and responsible development should
take place within the context of preserving and protecting our parks. As you
are aware, the Parks Service has a strong mandate to preserve and protect
national parks for the use and enjoyment of the Canadian public.
A number of parks related issues in
western Canada have reached national attention lately. The Sunshine ski resort
proposal for Banff National Park obviously was one. The Rafferty-Alameda dam
situation has also had an impact on our programs within the Canadian Parks
Service. We sensed a real growing distrust on the part of the Canadian public
in government's ability to manage and protect our natural resources. We in the
Canadian Parks Service have had a hundred years of experience in managing this,
yet we too are receiving from the public a growing concern and a growing
demonstration that they want us to make sure that we in fact protect the
integrity of our legislation, policies, and procedures to make sure that the
environment is protected.
I would like to speak to you for
just a moment about Canada's national parks as opposed to what we often
consider to be Canada's national park, and that is Banff. If we separate the
policy issues from the two, I would suggest to you that Banff is not
representative of all the Canadian parks and that Banff should not necessarily
be the one park in which policy is spread over the rest of the parks in the
country and that a park like Banff may need different types of approaches than
some of the other parks that we have.
The Canadian Parks Service follows
a Parks System Plan which has divided the country into 39 different natural
regions. There are 34 parks at present, representing 21 of these 39 regions.
Many of the parks which remain to be developed are those which exist in
Canada's northern territories. Canada has set aside these lands for the
protection of the most spectacular and the most representative landscapes, but
I think the protection issue is far broader than that. These, as representative
samples of the ecosystem, are the last opportunities that we have to set aside
those examples for research and for models of environmental protection. Once we
lose those lands set aside, there will not be other lands that are unimpaired.
That does not, however, mean that we should prohibit visitors from visiting
those properties or that all of those lands should be wilderness areas to which
the public is allowed no access. On the contrary, the Canadian Parks Service
On average almost every single
Canadian visits a park each year. In Banff alone we have 8 to 10 million
visitors yearly which represents almost half the total of the 26 million annual
visitors to national parks across the country.
Public participation plays a very
great role in the parks policy and development. We have a system now of
management planning which is directed to better land use management in parks.
The four mountain parks plans, which are perhaps the most famous of those
plans, were approved in November 1988. In those plans, as in others, we set
aside lands for particular purposes within the parks: wilderness areas, special
use areas to protect endangered species, areas to provide recreational
opportunities and visitor services. The public participates in the debates
around the management plans for each park. In Banff alone we received over
12,000 formal responses to that management plan.
I recently returned from a visit to
Italy for an international environmental conference, and it occurred to me that
Canadians take their natural resources very much for granted. We tend to assume
that these spaces will always be there. We are often unaware of how much
activity really takes place within the parks. We are at a stage in many of the
parks where we will now have to start assessing carrying capacities because
many of the parks are being taxed to the limit. We are also potential targets,
particularly Banff, for the development of tourism potential.
Just to demonstrate that there is
development within the national parks, in Banff alone building permits issued
over the last 10 years have exceeded $270 million. We have contributed $126
million of private-sector development since 1984. We have contributed, in
Alberta alone, to the economic activity of the province representing 13.8
percent of the GDP for the tourism industry in '87, and our expenditures within
the national parks represent $466 million of Alberta's gross domestic product
and 13,000 person-years devoted to employment in the tourist industry.
In summary, I would like to suggest
to you that there is no pat answer for how we can balance development and
preservation. We in the Parks Service are doing our share to contribute to
tourism, to permit development within parks, and also to ensure that every
proposed development is tested through a series of environmental assessments to
measure and ensure that the impact of that development will not be detrimental
to the parks. We share the growing interest in environmental concerns that face
all Canadians and within our mandate we will do everything we can to educate,
entertain, and offer visitors a quality parks experience.
Art Webster (Minister of
Tourism, Yukon): The
purpose of the National Parks Act of 1930 was to set aside unique areas
of land to preserve and protect for the benefit, enjoyment, and education of
all Canadians. That indeed is still the purpose of the National Parks Act.
However, difficulty arises in defining certain terms. Some developers will have
certain ideas on what they consider to be in the public interest. That may be
in opposition to some of the conservationists who think such development may
not be in the public good. Both sides can put forth some very valid and
convincing reasons on either side of the equation.
In the Yukon we have a national
and, indeed, an international treasure called Kluane National Park, located in
the southwest corner of the territory. Its unique flora, fauna, and very
sensitive ecosystem has been declared a world heritage site worthy of special
protection. Parks Canada at this time is preparing a management plan for
development of the park, and of course, this has fostered debate regarding the
form this development should take. There are those who want to develop the park
immediately in the form of a highway loop within the park to provide access for
large recreational vehicles and tour buses. Opponents object to this because
they see this following the course of Denali National Park in Alaska, which is
a major park featuring Mount McKinley. They favour development on a very minor
scale in the form of upgrading existing roads and improving existing trails for
hiking and horseback outings.
I personally do not see the issue
as one of development versus nondevelopment. There obviously must be some
development in order to encourage and to enable Canadians to take advantage of
the wilderness and the unique attractions that make that particular park worthy
of such a special designation. So yes, there should be some development. It
should be specifically tailored to that particular park. It should occur in a
very careful and gradual manner, avoiding the salami sandwich type of
development--just one more slice will not hurt. I feel that once development
begins, it is difficult if not impossible to retard growth or reverse it. One
road will beget another, and one ski resort, because you like competition, will
lead to another.
In trying to strike a balance
between preservation and development in our national parks where conflicts
arise that cannot be easily resolved, I believe it would be wise and indeed in
the public interest, for this generation of Canadians, and future ones, to err
on the side of preservation.
Bill Brewster (MLA, Yukon): This question of conservation versus
development is not a new issue. I return to Alberta after 40 years and they are
still fighting Sunshine ski village. I can recall, as a small boy, my
grandfather and my great uncle fighting over the national parks policy.
However, they finally succeeded in getting Mount Norquay, and then they finally
succeeded in getting Sunshine, although I can remember my grandfather saying
that it's not big enough and should have been built bigger. It put a lot of
people to work. There are an awful lot of pros and cons on this. My friend the
Minister of Tourism implies that proponents of development want to see large
buses and recreation vehicles going into Kluane National Park. I would like him
to show me a brief that ever made such a statement.
We ask for "controlled"
access. The roads are already there. They were put there by placer miners. They
are still there. After 40-some years, they have not deteriorated. They are
built on rocks, so they are not doing too much damage. What is the point of
putting 22,000 square kilometres out where nobody can see it? There is a Kluane
game sanctuary between the park and the highway and of the 3,000 or so people
who thought they were in the national park in 1986, less than 10 percent were
actually in the park because they could not walk the nine or 10 miles to get
there. The park puts their signs up on the highway which belongs to the Yukon
government. We simply asked and I think we are going to win it, quite
frankly, for more access. We did not ask for large access into this area; we
simply asked for controlled access.
I asked it for my Indian constituents,
because they understand that type of work. They can drive these four-wheeled
vehicles in there. They can spot the game. They live this way. The two bands I
have in my area have problems. They have no future. They can not look ahead.
This park is part of their world. The first land claim negotiations from Ottawa
promised that they would get work in this park. Nothing has happened. We
continue to go along in ways like this.
We now have a northern park which we
are not allowing anybody into. Now, just think about this. Well over 14 percent
of Yukon land is now completely out of control.
By the year 2000, 70 percent of the
Canadian population will be over 50 years of age. They will never see Kluane
National Park, a world heritage site, because they can not get there. I am
fortunate because I spent years and years in there with pack horses before the
parks took over. Now, they have the nerve to tell me to get my poor old horses
out of the park because they were eating grass. That bothered the sheep. Well,
the fact is that in 1898 Shorty Chambers put horses in there, wintered them,
and the sheep were still there.
Some people want to make the park a
preserve of "wilderness people". I just got through talking with Denali
National Park officials before I came down here. They have controlled access.
They have not been able to prove in all these years that this controlled access
in any way has bothered the wildlife. The animals are still around the road. We
can point this out at Sheep Mountain. The sheep have continually been there
since 1943, when the Alaska Highway was built. I have personally seen where
they come right down in front of you and walk down to the lake for water. They
are now disappearing. They are disappearing because we have wilderness people
that walk all over and kill all the grass and everything else. I am not against
wilderness people. They have to go in, but they have to be controlled.
A bear was shot in the park just
before I left because of wilderness people. They kept leaving their garbage
around, so we have one less grizzly bear. Last year there were at least six
grizzlies shot. We can not keep this up. And it is not because we have a lot of
people in there. We can turn around and put more people in there by far, and we
can put them in by buses. They are controlled completely. They are not going to
hurt the bears, because when there is a bear around the bus driver is not going
to let them out of there and bears do not attack buses. In 1970 the Denali
National Park had 44,600 people. They put the road in and in 1986 got 530,000
travelling on these buses. That's an increase of 145 percent. Now, when your
whole area depends on tourism, that is an awful nice increase. They have
learned an awful lot about controlling animals and controlling people, and we
can learn from them. We must open this area up. I have 17 lodges there that are
literally going down. Our tourism is dropping because of the fact that we
simply are not looking after people.
Edward Clark (MLA,
Prince Edward Island): Prince Edward Island's national park is situated along a 45- kilometre
stretch of land on the north shore of the province. With three campgrounds, our
national park has one of the highest visitation rates in the country next to
Banff and Jasper, and yet in terms of land base it is one of the smallest. The
land-base-to-visitors ratio puts added pressure on the park and makes it
extremely difficult to protect the environmentally sensitive areas of the park,
which include the nesting grounds for the endangered piping plover. In fact,
certain sections of the park must be closed every year at a certain time to
ensure that the nesting grounds are not damaged.
Each national park has its own
unique and individual characterization. Development done without considering
the history and future would be a monumental mistake.
Most people agree that what most
attracts visitors to our park is its natural resources, unspoiled scenery and
beaches. For this reason we feel our natural resources must be protected, and
to date this has been the case under Canada Parks policy. In striving to
achieve a balance between development and preservation, many proposals brought
forward by enthusiastic entrepreneurs have been turned down. Approximately 50
applications are received by the district office of Parks Canada in
Charlottetown each month. These proposals include everything from beachside
stands selling hot dogs and sunglasses to the construction of first-class
restaurants. These development proposals for the most part centre around
enhancing and better serving the visitors to the province and do not deal with
extra activity usage such as mining, as the case may be in other provinces.
In keeping with the spirit of the
national parks policy proposals requesting authorization to develop small
businesses within the park are viewed in the light of sections 3.2.1 and 3.2.9
of the national parks policy. The former states that natural resources within
national parks will be protected and managed with minimal interference to
natural processes to ensure the perpetuity of natural, evolving land and water
environments and their associate species. Section 3.2.9 states that Parks
Canada will seek to eliminate or minimize sources of pollution affecting park
resources. Where sources of pollution are external to the park, Parks Canada
will work in co-operation with other responsible agencies. It may seem as
though Prince Edward Island interprets these guidelines strictly. However, this
strict application is deemed necessary due to the high sensitivity and
fragility of the environment within the park itself.
Also to be considered when
discussing new developments within the national park is the effect these new
developments would have on not only the park itself but business already
established in the area outside the actual park boundaries. On Prince Edward
Island the service industry surrounding the national park is well developed. If
Parks Canada were to become actively involved in promoting the park for
possible investment, the existing business would undoubtedly feel the direct
effects of the competition. This situation would directly contradict the
premise on which the independent business person established their operations
near the park, i.e. being that the park is there to draw visitors, not to
compete directly with those in the private sector.
In addition, many visitors to the
province go to the beach to relax and get away from aggressive advertising
campaigns, and it could prove to be an inconvenience and source of contention
for those very people you are trying to accommodate. Too much development could
lead to fewer visitors taking advantage of what the national park has to offer.
In conclusion, it is obvious that
natural resource management within a specific park cannot be done without first
considering what the usage for the park has been in the past and what is
envisaged for the park in the future.
In a national park such as exists
on Prince Edward Island, a certain type of development may be considered
unacceptable, whereas in other parks across the country the same type of
development could prove to be advantageous not only for the park itself but
also for the general area in which it is located.
The national park on Prince Edward
Island has to date proceeded very cautiously with any major development
proposals. Officials remain cognizant of the fact that people are attracted to
the park in great numbers because of the unspoiled beauty and peace that can be
found there. In addition, the fragile environment in which our park is located
limits the type of development which could be considered viable, as any sort of
other utilization of the park could result in damage to our environment.