Parks Canada focuses on climate change in the Rockies

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

The country’s busiest national park wants to better help its visitors enjoy their experience while addressing climate change and improving its relationship with Indigenous peoples.

Banff National Park in Alberta released its 2022 master plan this week.

Parks Canada has also published the management plans for other national parks in the Rockies such as Jasper, Yoho or Waterton Lakes. Like Banff, they say they want to commit to preserving their environment while taking into account climate change and relations with Aboriginal people.

« Canadians want us to move from talk about climate change to action, » said Sal Rasheed, superintendent of Banff National Park, which attracts more than 4 million visitors a year.

Mr. Rasheed wishes to work with the Town of Banff to put in place a community plan taking into account the new climatic conditions. He also wants to buy more electric or hybrid vehicles and reduce energy consumption in his buildings.

The park backed out of a cable car project that would have carried travelers from the town of Banff to the Mount Norquay ski resort.

“We did our homework. We saw that this project was not feasible and we moved on,” underlines Mr. Rasheed.

The plan also mentions the possibility of building a second railway line for passenger transport between Calgary and Banff, but this could lead to greater mortality among local wildlife.

Mr. Rasheed also mentions the possibility of increasing public transit, particularly in busy areas such as Moraine Lake and Lake Minnewanka.

The relationship between Banff National Park authorities and Indigenous peoples has a role to play in the process of national reconciliation. An Indigenous Advisory Circle was established several years ago to advise management.

“For example, we have thought about the burning practices of Indigenous peoples. We want to integrate indigenous knowledge with the Western approach to fire management,” Rasheed says.

Another important element of reconciliation is the reintroduction of bison to Banff National Park.

According to the management plan, Parks Canada will have to decide on the long-term feasibility of the project following an evaluation of the five-year pilot program by 2023.

« It’s safe to say that you can see bison in the landscapes of Banff National Park, » Rasheed says of the herd numbering about 80 head. “How many will he have? That remains to be determined.”

The plan recognizes grizzly bears, mountain goats, wolves, cougars and wolverines as sensitive and important species for Banff National Park and the surrounding region. “To a large extent, their long-term survival relies on managing the impacts of human activity, such as disturbance and forced abandonment of territory,” it reads. The habitat of these species must be maintained or improved by 2030.

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