Parks threatened by cuts, environmental group says

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society says resource development and federal budget cuts are putting more pressure than ever on wildlife.

Annual report warns against development and laying off scientists

Canada's parks and other wildlife areas are increasingly under threat because of resource development, budget cuts and job losses, a national environmental group says.

In its annual report released Thursday, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society warns that development and the recent decision to lay off scientists at Parks Canada is putting more pressure than ever on fragile ecosystems.

Éric Hébert-Daly, national director of the organization, says the loss of scientists is troubling because their work has proved valuable. For instance, he said, scientists figured out elk were overrunning Banff, Alta., 20 years ago because a town expansion had driven away cougars and wolves, the elks' natural predators.

"So the science that helped to identify why the elk population had boomed also helped us to control the population, make the town site safe, and at the same time make sure there's ecological health and balance in the rest of the park," he said.

The federal budget cut $30 million from Parks Canada in this year's budget,, forcing hundreds of layoffs.

Chasing away wildlife possible

Construction and resource extraction — such as oil and gas development near Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador — also pose increasing risks., Hébert-Daly also said.

"Seismic testing is going to have an impact on the coast line," near the park, he said.

The federal government says it is committed to conservation, such as efforts to clean up Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba and Lake Simcoe in Ontario.

Budget cuts and resource development near Newfoundland and Labrador's Gros Morne National Park and other locations pose a threat to their fragile ecosystems, according to a report from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

"We're trying to invest in measures that have tangible environmental outcomes and we do feel we have a strong track record in that regard," said Michelle Rempel, parliamentary secretary to the environment minister.

The environmental group says there are some reasons to applaud the federal government — such as the creation of the Rouge national urban park near Toronto — but the good news is overshadowed by the bigger concern for the future of parks across the country.

Environment Minister Peter Kent defended the government's conservation efforts and suggested the group is taking a pessimistic view.

"While CPAWS and our government have shared interests in our parks and protected spaces, CPAWS see a glass half empty while we see it half full and filling," Kent said in a statement.

Parks Canada will continue to monitor scientific data from its 42 national parks, 167 national historic sites and four marine conservation areas, the ministry said.

With a report from the CBC's Susan Lunn