Government of Alberta’s Decision to Merge Ministries of Parks and Forestry an Alarming Development
October 26, 2022
CPAWS Northern and Southern Alberta are deeply alarmed about the changes to parks management announced this past week by the Government of Alberta. The Alberta Environment and Parks Ministry is being split in two: the Environment and Protected Areas Ministry and the Forestry, Parks and Tourism Ministry.
“The key intent of parks is to provide enhanced protection to the environment while facilitating responsible recreation and the enjoyment of nature.” says Chris Smith, Conservation Analyst with CPAWS Northern Alberta. “Parks and protected areas have historically been entwined in our provincial legislation, with the majority of our parks also being classified as protected areas.”
The separation of parks from environmental management is a concerning development; perhaps even more troubling, however, is the merging of parks and forestry into a single ministry, and the potential for changes in allowable activities contrary to environmental protection. An Order in Council passed on October 24 provided additional details about which pieces of legislation each new ministry will be responsible for.
Of note: the Provincial Parks Act and Willmore Wilderness Park Act are now under the authority of the Forestry, Parks and Tourism Ministry.
The change in ministries transfers management of almost 94% of the land mass previously managed as protected areas under Alberta Environment and Parks into the new Forestry, Parks and Tourism Ministry. This includes all provincial parks, provincial recreation areas, wildland provincial parks and the Willmore Wilderness Park. This raises concerns over the potential reduction or loss of protections in these ecologically important areas.
This leaves less than 5% of Alberta’s protected areas to be managed under the new Environment and Protected Areas Ministry.
“All parks are meant to provide a form of environmental protection. By transferring the management of our wildland provincial parks and the Willmore Wilderness Park to a department that ostensibly will only manage them for tourism and may even allow industrial activities to take place within them is shocking.” says Katie Morrison, Executive Director of CPAWS Southern Alberta.
The dual biodiversity and climate crises have illuminated the need to put in place greater protections for land and water in Alberta, augmenting our concern over the merging of Parks and Forestry, and the stated intent to introduce industrial activity to our provincial parks.
“Albertans have been clear that they want more protected places in Alberta, not fewer, and that they oppose any removal or reduction of protections for our parks. The government should remember that only two years ago 10’s of thousands of Albertans joined us in Defending Alberta Parks.” says Chris Smith.