Academic journal article The Canadian Geographer

Protected Areas in Canada: Decade of Change

Academic journal article The Canadian Geographer

Protected Areas in Canada: Decade of Change

Article excerpt


Banff was set aside as Canada's first national park in 1885. Since that time, the amount of land in park systems in Canada has increased dramatically and new legislation and policies have been introduced. The last decade of the twentieth century, and up to 2002, has witnessed more changes than all from the preceding century. This article reviews these changes, provides some understanding of why they happened and identifies areas of ongoing challenge. The primary emphasis is on Parks Canada, although some attention is directed towards significant changes at the provincial level. The first part of the paper synthesises the main changes that have occurred. The second and third parts provide some explanation for these changes and prognostication for the future, respectively.

Decade of Change

Increased size, scope and use of protected areas in Canada

Approximately 38 million hectares were added to the protected areas system between 1989 and 2000 (Table 1). An estimated 6.84 percent of Canadian ecosystems are now protected, compared to 2.95 percent in 1989 (McNamee 2002a). This increase mimics global trends--over 17.1 million square kilometres of land are now protected globally, covering approximately 11.5 percent of the terrestrial earth compared with 4 million square kilometres in 1987, covering less than 2 percent of the earth (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987; Chape et al. 2003).

In the national park system in Canada, the area protected has increased over 6 million hectares, and 109,510ha have been set aside for future parks. Furthermore in September 2002, Prime Minister Chretien announced at the Global Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa plans to increase the size of the national park system by at least 50 percent. This would include 10 new national parks and would see 35 of Parks Canada's 39 natural regions represented (Environment Canada 1990). The remaining four regions are in Quebec where jurisdictional issues are still outstanding. Negotiations have already been completed for new parks in the Gulf Islands of BC and Ukkusiksalik in Nunavut. Federal-provincial negotiations continue for park proposals in the Interlake region of Manitoba, the Torngat and Mealy Mountains in Labrador, the South Okanagan (BC) and the East Arm of Great Slave Lake (NWT). Sites will also be identified in the Interior Northern Plateau in BC and the Great Lakes St Lawrence natural regions.

The federal government also committed to work with partners to establish five new national marine conservation areas (NMCAs), adding an estimated 15,000[km.sup.2] to the system. Three sites have been identified: Gwaii Haanas off BC's Queen Charlotte Islands, the Southern Strait of Georgia and in Western Lake Superior. Sites for the remaining areas are yet to be finalised.

There also have been significant additions to provincial park systems (Table 1). British Columbia has added over 325 new protected areas and increased the area in existing ones, making it the only province to protect over 12 percent of its land base. In Manitoba, parks now encompass 8.61 percent of the province, up from 0.49 percent, the largest percentage increase of all provinces. The Ontario government created 378 new protected areas, adding 2.4 million hectares. Nova Scotia also has made considerable progress in representing natural regions, moving from 5.2 percent of natural region coverage to 44.2 percent. This increase is particularly significant given that only 30 percent of the Nova Scotia land base is Crown owned (McNamee 2002a).

Significant events 1988-2001: legislation, policy and campaigns

This section describes the main changes in legislation and policy including some of the key reports that helped focus attention on the need for these changes. These changes are summarised in Figure 1, along with changes in national park visitation and the amount of protected area in Canada. …

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