Wednesday, July 13, 2016

National Parks as a Sacred Trust

In a couple of weeks we'll be heading to Atlantic Canada, God willing, and if our itinerary goes as planned we'll spend some time in Fundy National Park. Over the years we've visited  roughly a dozen national parks including Gros Morne and Terra Nova in Newfoundland, Keji and Cape Breton in Nova Scotia,  Forillon in Quebec, Pukaskwa in Ontario and several  in the West, including Pacific Rim.

All of them have been remarkably beautiful, including Fundy, where we have camped several times. While my art history background has taken us to a number of famous European and North America churches, our parks are cathedrals of Creation, and places where we experience the grandeur of God.

I've taken a quick read through the recently released report Protecting Canada's National Parks: A Call for Renewed Commitment to Nature Conservation prepared by CPAWS, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. On the website CPAWS states that "Our vision is to keep at least half of Canada's public land and water wild — forever. We focus on protecting large, connected areas of Canada's wilderness"

The writers express concern that our national parks are becoming tourist venues with encroaching development. This emphasis on commercializing our parks rather than sustaining diverse habitats appears to be based on the desire to generate revenue.

In recent years, CPAWS has observed a major shift in how Parks Canada is managing our national parks, moving away from its priority mandate of nature conservation, and towards a greater focus on tourism and marketing, increasing visitation, and revenue generation. This shift in priorities has resulted in developments being approved behind closed doors, with inadequate regard for how they impact on parks’ ecological integrity or for public input, and financial decisions being made that undermine the Agency’s conservation and science capacity.

I'm glad this group is making us aware that environmental science and habitat preservation are being pushed into the background of priorities. CPAWS isn't calling for the elimination of tourism in parks but the stats show that certain parks such as Banff are being "loved to death" by a growing number of visitors. Roughly 12 millions people visit Canada's national parks each year.

When we visit Fundy this year we'll delight in its beauty, head out for a paddle, and remember that all our parks are a sacred trust.


No comments: