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Underfunded and under pressure. (National Parks).

Canada has some of the world's most magnificent national parks.

* The Gwaii Haanas Park is in the southern Queen Charlotte Islands on the British Columbian Coast. It covers almost 1,500 [km.sup.2] and is home to 39 unique plants. Each year 750,000 sea birds nest in the park, which is also home to black bears, pine martens, and other mammals. It has a landscape of deep fjords and rugged mountains in a setting of one of the most beautiful and precious old-growth temperate rainforests.

* Grasslands Park is south of Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Here almost 1,000 [km.sup.2] of Prairie grassland is preserved as a natural habitat for pronghorn antelopes, prairie falcons, and blacktailed prairie dogs.

* Fathom Five National Park is at the tip of Ontario's Bruce Peninsula, which separates Georgian Bay from Lake Huron. It protects the northern tip of the Niagara Escarpment, a limestone cliff that stretches 725 kilometres north from Niagara Falls.

* Prince Edward Island has one of the smaller national parks. Just 22 [km.sup.2], this park on the island's north shore covers 40 kilometres of beaches, marshes, sand dunes, ponds, woodlands, and cliffs.

Thirty-five other national parks, in every province and territory, have been created. The plan is to protect unique ecosystems and help Canadians appreciate their country's fabulous natural heritage. But, all is not well in Canada's national parks. Just because a park has been created doesn't mean everything in it is protected forever. Many of Canada's parks, both national and provincial are under pressure from commercial development.

The Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories is an example. Mining and oil and gas development is taking place outside the park, although within the South Nahaani River watershed. There are serious concerns that industrial activities will have a negative impact within the park.

Another concern is on the West Coast. Here's what the Canadian Nature Federation says about The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve:

"Pacific Rim is under intense threat both from within the park, and from land use beyond its borders. In particular, the fragmentation of the park into three distinct areas has had a significant impact.

"The allocation of lands outside the park to timber extraction over file last several decades has reduced the park to a narrow band of wilderness in some places. Roads and parking lots further fragment parts of the park.

"The park ecosystem is also vulnerable to marine pollution, as the Grace Harbour oil spill of 1989 demonstrated when oil slicks rolled up on the park beach, killing hundreds of birds.

"With up to 700,000 visits per year, visitor pressure continues to grow on the park. Fortunately, visitor conflicts with wildlife such as black bears and cougars have decreased in recent years due to strict regulations about food and garbage in campsites."

This park is home for 20 species that are considered to be at risk of extinction.

On Canada's East Coast another park is in trouble. The Prince Edward Island National Park draws huge crowds-35,000 people for each square kilometre of its beaches, sand dunes, and woodlands. That many pairs of feet is playing havoc with the ecosystem. And now, developers want to attract even more visitors.

The provincial government approved plans for an all-season resort with a 150-room hotel and restaurant and an 18-hole golf course close to the park. The developer is also planning to build 910 timeshare units and 8.5 km of hiking and cycling trails in the area. The proposed resort is expected to attract 140,000 visitors per year to the fragile Greenwich Dunes area. This is almost twice the number that Parks Canada has set as the upper limit of visitors. The increased traffic could spell disaster for the dune ecosystem, and its rare flora and fauna that includes the globally endangered piping plover.

The Canadian Nature Federation and the Sierra Legal Defence Fund are fighting to protect our national parks from these kinds of threats. But, where is Parks Canada? Surely, the federal agency that has responsibility for these national treasures is standing on the barricades, shoulder-to-shoulder with the environmentalists? Well, yes and no.

As with many government departments over the last decade, Parks Canada has had its budget cut. It lost about a quarter of its funding at the start of the 1990s. Since then, the understaffed agency has been struggling just to keep the system's roads, fences, campsites and other infrastructure front falling apart.

In 2000, a Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks estimated that $328 million over five years was needed to restore the parks. As of the summer of 2002 none of that money had shown up. The longer the parks are starved of cash the more costly it will become to fix them.

Canada's national parks fall under the jurisdiction of Heritage Minister Sheila Copps. At the time of the 2000 report on the state of the parks, Ms. Copps promised, "We will revitalize Canada's national parks. That is our responsibility."

ENDANGERED PARKS

The Canadian Nature Federation (CNF) has published a list of the 10 national parks most at risk from threats to their environments. They are:

* Prince Edward Island National Park--PEI

* Nahanni National Park Reserve--NWT

* Point Pelee National Park--ON

* Wood Buffalo National Park--NWT/AB

* St. Lawrence Islands National Park--ON

* Riding Mountain National Park--MB

* Pacific Rim National Park Reserve--BC

* Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve--BC

* Elk Island National Park--AB

* Waterton Lakes National Park--AB

The Nature Federation published a similar list three years earlier in 1999. Some parks have dropped off the earlier list; not because conditions have improved but because conditions in other parks have become so much worse that they've been bumped off the list.

WATER PARK

Parliament has passed Bill C-10. Called the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, this law creates a framework for the creation of national parks in marine environments. Environmentalists are hoping Parks Canada will establish marine conservation areas in the Great Lakes, and on Canada's three ocean coastlines. Canada's first National Marine Park, Fathom Five, is at Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario.

FACT FILE

Parks Canada says it has the goal of creating a park to represent each of the country's 39 natural ecological regions; to achieve this 14 more parks are needed.

FACT FILE

It's been said that Canadians love their national parks so much they love them to death.
Websites

Canadian Nature Federation--http://www.cnf.ca/

Canadian Parks and Wilderness
Society--http://www.cpaws.
org/

Parks Canada--http://
parkscanada.pch.gc.ca/
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Publication:Canada and the World Backgrounder
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Words:1090
Previous Article:Quick! Bury it! (Toxicity).
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