Preserving the Playgrounds

By Ned Morgan.

The federal government’s severe cuts to Canada’s national parks last year should concern all Canadians, particularly winter users of public wilderness. Clearly, we can no longer assume that government will go on funding our parks to an adequate level – so we must look elsewhere for protection.

Due to organizations like CPAWS – the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – we can feel less helpless. 2013 was CPAWS’ 50th anniversary, and we checked in with them to assess the state of Canada’s parks and wilderness in the year past. CPAWS National Executive Director Éric Hébert-Daly outlines the successes and ongoing efforts.

 Gros Morne, NFLD

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In the spring, with help from supporters, we revved into high gear with local community partners on a campaign to protect Gros Morne National Park from proposed oil drilling and fracking within metres of its boundary. Dozens of media interviews, active local campaigns amongst tourists in the park, quick responses from our supporters, advertising in multiple media outlets and thorough science-based responses to decision-makers – all brought us a tremendous level of success.”

Hiking in Gros Morne on the north rim of Western Brook Pond, towards the coast. Photo by Paul Gierszewski.


“We cheered a fracking moratorium announced in Newfoundland and Labrador on November 4th, but were still anxious that traditional drilling might proceed next to Gros Morne. But happily, we were able to cheer again on December 5th, when licenses to develop oil and gas resources off the Gros Morne coast were not renewed by the offshore petroleum board.

This was a victory – and positions us well for the next step in this campaign in 2014, gaining a permanent buffer zone around the park so that such proposals can’t resurface in the future.”

Nova Scotia and Sable Island National Park

“After years of work and investment to identify areas for protection, CPAWS’ – Nova Scotia chapter and its partners welcomed the final announcement of a government plan to protect 13% of the province’s land this fall. Pretty decent accomplishment, considering Nova Scotia is a highly settled landscape with a big human footprint. They have now protected a higher percentage of their landscape than Canada has nationally.

Also in Nova Scotia, we welcomed Sable Island National Park’s final establishment. This amazing stretch of sand dunes 150 km south of mainland Nova Scotia is now Canada’s newest National Park.”

Sable Island. Photo by Joan Larson.


New Brunswick and Quebec

“In New Brunswick, where provincial parks have no ecological protection in law, the government finally responded to our calls for a formal review of the Parks Act, which may offer these special places better protection in future.

In Quebec, our chapter welcomed the government’s long awaited release of a better mining bill. This bill, once enacted is not perfect but will go a long way to reducing environmental impacts before, during and after a mine’s operations.”


“CPAWS’ Ottawa Valley chapter launched a great new program of guided nature hikes for school-aged children and a project to better understand the impacts of roads on the area’s natural regions.

Our Wildlands League chapter took the drastic step in 2013 of partnering with other groups to take the Ontario government to court for undermining its own Endangered Species Act. They’ve also been raising the public profile of the threats to Ontario’s northern “Ring of Fire” region which is slated for massive mining development in the most intact and pristine parts of the Boreal forest.”


“In the Yukon, our chapter continues to campaign for the solid plan that was developed through the land-use planning work in the Peel Watershed. Sadly, it appears that the government is moving to ignore that plan – which could have meant significant long-term protection for the region. Thousands of people expressed their support for the original plan and we will be continuing to work with local First Nations in 2014 to ask the government to respect the decision made by the planning process.

Marine Protection

We released a nation-wide report on the spotty progress towards establishing marine protected areas on all of Canada’s coasts in January. And to highlight the need for protection, CPAWS BC chapter organized some spectacular submarine dives to the Glass Sponge Reefs in October.



Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement 

“The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement continues to be one of the largest projects of our nation-wide family. We’re getting closer to identifying new protected areas and caribou recovery plans in many regions of the country and are expecting some great results to announce in 2014.”

Jasper and Banff

“While our national parks face mounting development pressures, we were pleased to see Parks Canada make some good management decisions to help wildlife in Jasper and Banff. In Jasper, ski access to some backcountry areas where caribou are still surviving but by a thread is now delayed. The decision helps to protect the caribou from predators in the winter. And in Banff, the park management has begun springtime overnight highway closures to help lessen the pressures on wildlife. We’ve also celebrated the reintroduction of bison into Banff National Park.”

Lake Louise.
Lake Louise. Copyright Laszlo Photo.

“CPAWS’ annual report on the state of Canada’s Parks generated over 50 media reports and has been an effective way to highlight the good and bad news about our national parks. We were also happy to welcome further signs of progress in the creation of new parks in places like the east arm of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories, Bathurst Island in Nunavut, the Mealy Mountains in Labrador, and the first National Urban Park in Canada in the Rouge Valley near Toronto.”

MEC supports CPAWS through its Buy a Pack, Protect a Park initiative. MEC also supports Canadian environmental causes through its membership in 1 % for the Planet.