CPAWS Northern and Southern Alberta Chapters welcome the Government of Alberta’s announcement of two new and three expanded provincial parks and recreation areas adding approximately 1,400 hectares (ha) of new protection to the province. These new and expanded areas will protect sensitive plants and animals and facilitate Albertans’ access and connection to nature.
“Albertans have made it clear that they want more parks, so these additions and expansions are welcome news. We hope that this is a signal of more to come. There are many other opportunities to increase habitat protections such as areas previously identified through land use planning, areas proposed by communities, and much needed protection of habitat for particularly vulnerable populations of species at risk.” says Kecia Kerr, Executive Director of CPAWS Northern Alberta.
The announcement, which we see as hopeful news overall, also included the decision to delist 12 Provincial Recreation Areas (PRAs).
While the 12 PRAs delisted through the Order in Council yesterday were part of the 2020 “Optimizing Alberta Parks” plan, these 12 sites were not the focus of our opposition to Optimizing Alberta Parks and the Defend Alberta Parks campaign (1). The twelve sites total about 50 ha in size with most being former highway rest stops where amenities have been removed and closed for many years. One exception to this is the Fort Vermillion PRA, which is being delisted in response to long-term local concerns over lack of management by Alberta Parks. We strongly believe that Alberta Parks should be properly funded to allow for effective management of the parks network rather than removing sites that provide conservation or recreation value to the system.
Parks and protected areas in the Alberta Parks system are a key tool for protecting wildlife and wilderness; however, some recreation sites do not focus on nature conservation. While we do not think that sites should be delisted indiscriminately, the sites did not contribute significantly to conservation and recreation, and we are pleased to see the change countered with new protected areas and the expansion of existing sites that will be impactful for protecting sensitive species, safeguarding biodiversity and creating recreation opportunities for Albertans.
CPAWS feels strongly that robust policies and legislation are critical to ensuring long-term protection of Alberta’s natural places and recreational activities. Changes to our parks system must be carefully considered so that our parks and public lands are managed to prioritize nature, while still providing opportunities for sustainable recreation and other uses.
“We know that Albertans love and value their parks. CPAWS Northern and Southern Alberta chapters continue to closely monitor the direction and decisions on the management of Alberta’s parks and protected areas to ensure decisions align with protection of biodiversity, resilience to climate change, reconciliation, and connecting Albertans to nature. The response of our members and the public seeking clarity on these recent changes shows that Albertans are still watching closely. It is critical that the government makes these decisions transparently and in consultation with Albertans,” says Katie Morrison, Executive Director of the Southern Alberta Chapter.
De-listing provincial parks and recreation areas should only happen following evaluation of their conservation value and meaningful public engagement. We do not want decisions such as the sudden and undisclosed delisting of parks to be the norm.
Four of the Provincial Recreation Areas delisted yesterday were previously identified for delisting in the 2014 South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, a land use plan formed by public and stakeholder engagement including communities, governments, industry and non-governmental organizations. We strongly encourage the government to also fulfill commitments of designating new protected areas, such as the Pekisko Heritage Rangeland and Gipsy-Gordon Wildland, as outlined in the South Saskatchewan and the Lower Athabasca Regional Plans.
“If the Government of Alberta is moving forward on delisting areas identified in land-use plans, we can just as readily move forward on protecting areas as proposed in those same plans. We look forward to the province making progress on this front, too,” concludes Morrison.
- In February 2020, the Government of Alberta announced their intention to remove 175 parks from the Alberta parks system as part of their “Optimizing Alberta Parks” plan. This plan was immediately met with public outrage and spawned the Defend Alberta Parks campaign. The decision was later reversed, because of pushback from tens of thousands of Albertans who were concerned about the impact on conservation and recreation in the province.