New Report Shows Parks and Protected Areas are Essential to Our Lives and Economies: Alberta Government Still Needs Convincing
— Press Release: July 15, 2020
EDMONTON, AB – A new report from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) recommends that nature protection is put at the heart of Canada’s COVID-19 recovery strategies. Earlier this year, as the pandemic was unfolding, the Government of Alberta announced that it would remove the protective designations from 164 parks, and close, or partially close 20 other sites. There have been a number of other changes to environmental regulations during the pandemic as well, including the waiving of environmental reporting and the removal of the province’s overarching coal policy. The parks decision was made without any public consultation, and has, unsurprisingly, seen significant push back from Albertans.
“Albertans treasure their parks and protected areas, and yet, in a year when access to nature, and the benefits it provides has become so important to so many, the Government of Alberta is actively dismantling our protected area network. ” says Chris Smith, Parks Coordinator for CPAWS Northern Alberta.
The impact of these changes, which could see a loss of nearly 4,000 campsites, became especially evident when the camping reservation system crashed on opening day, despite being restricted to Albertans only.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” says Katie Morrison, Conservation Director for CPAWS Southern Alberta, “Parks and nature are part of our identity, and especially in this stressful time, have become a reprieve for our mental, and physical well-being. Access to nature has been proven to reduce stress, and improve human health. Government should be guaranteeing access to these places, not taking it away.”
The report highlights how investment in nature would generate significant return through job creation, health benefits, and contributing to reconciliation as well as protecting critical ecosystem health that supports all life and helps tackle climate change. The Alberta government’s sweeping changes to parks are at odds with what the evidence shows and the sentiments of the Albertan public.
CPAWS’ Parks Report Recommendations at a Glance
CPAWS Northern and Southern Alberta chapters recommend that the Government of Alberta:
- Reverse their Optimizing Alberta Parks decision to remove the protective designation from existing parks
- Make land use decisions through the land use planning process
- Uphold their commitment to transparent decision making and robust consultation
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land, ocean and freshwater, and ensuring our parks and protected areas are managed to protect nature. In the past 57 years, we have played a leading role in protecting over half a million square kilometres – an area bigger than the entire Yukon Territory! Our vision is to protect at least half of Canada’s public land and water– for the benefit of both wildlife and people.