Park development criticized by environmental group

Canada's parkland is growing but "inappropriate" development is nibbling away at the edges, says a new report form the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's annual report lauds creation of new parks, pans 'inappropriate' development

Cuestas, or slopes with ridges, on the Hudson Bay coast of Turjusuq provincial park in Quebec. The park covers 26,107 square kilometres and was created December 14, 2012. ((Nunavik Parks))

Canada's parkland is growing but "inappropriate" development is nibbling away at the edges, says a new report from environmental group Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

The 2013 annual State of Canada's Parks Report lauded federal and provincial governments for the creation of new parks —like Tursujuq provincial park in northern Quebec — but expressed worry that industrial projects right next to parks threaten the fragile balance of life in those areas.

"One of our biggest concerns this year is a proposal to drill and 'frack' for oil within metres of Gros Morne National Park,"  argued CPAWS parks program director Alison Woodley.

"If this proposal is approved, it will present a serious risk to park ecosystems. It will also jeopardize a thriving local tourist economy and could put a Gros Morne's designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site at risk," Woodley said.

While CPAWS bemoaned cutbacks to national park hours of operation, the society couldn't help but remark on the many provincial commitments to expand parks and protected areas in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

"In some regions, we're seeing progress. In others, we're seeing significant backtracking on commitments that have been made. So, it's a bit of a patchwork across the country," explained Woodley.

The mixed progress is evident even within provinces. For instance, the report praises Manitoba for its plan to protect ecosystem health within it park system but then points out that the province still allows mining in those same parks.

"We need to better value our parks. We all know parks as places where nature and wildlife are protected and where we can go and enjoy nature but there are also enormous economic and other benefits from parks," said Woodley adding that parks contribute $5 billion to the Canadian economy and support 64,000 jobs.

"So, really, investing in our parks and creating new parks and protecting the parks we have is an investment in the environment. It's also an investment in the economy and the well-being of Canadians," she added.