For Immediate Release
Edmonton, AB - (March 9, 2020) Sierra Club Canada Foundation is deeply concerned about the degradation of Alberta’s parks and the impacts these changes will have for conservation, wildlife habitat, accessible recreation, and the status of protected areas in Alberta. Sierra Club Canada Foundation recognizes that habitat alteration and elimination poses the single greatest threat to the continued well-being of healthy and diverse wildlife populations.
“It is concerning that the province would remove protections from provincial parks and natural areas when it has already committed to protecting 17% of land and inland waters by the end of 2020 as part of the Pathway to Canada Target 1 initiatve,” states Michelle Murphy, Chair of Sierra Club Canada Foundation’s Prairie Chapter Executive Committee. “Currently, Alberta protects 14.7% of land and inland waters. The loss of park protections would stray from this commitment.”
On March 3, 2020, the provincial government announced changes to the Alberta Parks system which will close or partially close 20 sites and open 164 of 473 sites for potential partnerships. Partial closures are listed for 5 provincial parks, while 13 provincial parks, 9 natural areas, and 157 provincial recreation areas will see full closures or partnership opportunities. Affected areas can be viewed on the Alberta Parks website.
While the sites named have been labelled as “very small and under-utilized,” it is unclear how this data has been obtained. Many of the places listed are popular recreational areas for Albertans who engage in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and cross-country skiing. The visitor centres in Kananaskis are key for providing information and enhancing public safety. They become especially important during the busy summer months. Additionally, rural communities may be unfairly impacted since many of the parks are located near rural communities and are spaces for engagement with nature.
“The announcement from Alberta Parks opens up previously regulated areas to potentially damaging activities. Private partnerships could lead to development and activities on previously publicly-owned land without the requirement to hold public consultations. The overall lack of consultation for these major changes to Alberta Parks is unacceptable,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Programs Director. “The management of parks must be directed towards preserving the natural qualities that caused the lands to be declared parks in the first place. We call on the provincial government to reverse this decision and ensure these places are protected.”
Details on Parks Cuts
Impacted Provincial Parks:
Full closure or potential partnership (+closure):
Impacted Natural Areas:
Clifford E. Lee NA, Northwest of Bruderheim NA, Sheep Creek NA, Highwood River NA, J.J. Collett NA, Riverlot 56 NA, Crow Lake NA, Sherwood Park NA, Wildcat Island NA