Erosion of Canada's parkland: The loss of the last sanctuaries


By Bob McDonald, Quirks & Quarks

Canada's Parks are being slowly eroded by changing regulations that could turn our last wild refuges over to developers and resource extraction.

Parks Canada is currently considering a proposal to build a hotel on the shores of Maligne Lake in Alberta's Jasper National Park. This type of development in a wilderness area goes against Park policy, but as more and more visitors come through the gates each year, the parks are under pressure to provide more accommodation and services. 

But building more hotels destroys the very wilderness people have come to see. 

In British Columbia, the Legislature recently passed the controversial Bill 4 - Park Amendment Act that allows "research" and "feasibility studies" in Provincial Parks for projects such as oil and gas pipelines, along with structures related to that work. Until now, research in parks was limited to only those activities that led to the betterment of the park itself. But now, the definition of the term has been softened, so research by industry interested in park resources can take place. 

The amendment also allows for a park boundary to be moved if a pipeline route or other development infringes on a park area. Once the boundary is moved out of the way, the project can go through more easily because the land is no longer a park. 

This kind of slow erosion of wilderness areas has been repeated around the world. The great parks of Africa have been under constant pressure from agriculture and sprawling towns. Even the mighty Serengeti, home of one of the largest animal migrations on the planet, is threatened by a proposal for a road that would virtually slice the park in half.

Our parks are natural gemstones, where it is still possible to get a glimpse of what the world was like before humanity began taking it over. And with world population continuing to rise, green spaces will continue to be infringed upon.

Here's another way to look at it. 

Most of the surface of the Earth is covered in water. Only about a third of the planet is above sea level, where humans can live. Of that dry land, more than one third of it is either desert or difficult terrain, while both Poles are frozen and dark half the year. 

What's left over - the space available for seven billion humans to live on - is only about an eighth of the Earth's surface.   

In other words, green spaces with no people standing on them are exceedingly rare on Earth. We are blessed in Canada with enormous areas of wilderness and some of the best scenery on the planet. 

For most of this country's history, we have simply taken what we wanted from the land - animals, wood, minerals, oil - with the feeling that there is so much land it will recover from whatever we take.  Now, the scars we have gouged on the land are growing as we go farther afield looking for resources to feed a growing world demand.

We have an opportunity in this country to preserve pristine wilderness for future generations.   The majority of children in Canada live in cities and many already experience a "nature deficiency." They are spending too much time in virtual realities of computer games and not enough time in the actual reality of a forest.
There's a saying in real estate, "Invest in land. They're not making any more of it."

A wiser statement might be, "Invest in parks; we're preserving less of them."