After months of evading questions about this project, Parks Canada has finally decided to talk—and unfortunately the rumours are true. The $66 million announced in this year’s federal budget is for Parks Canada to construct a paved bike trail from the town of Jasper to the Columbia Icefields, and eventually to Lake Louise—right through sensitive habitat of an endangered caribou herd and the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our organizations are calling on the federal government to immediately stop this plan to pave paradise that was concocted behind closed doors, with no public input, and outside the approved park management plan. Instead the $66 million should be invested in wildlife conservation and monitoring programs that were gutted by the previous federal government.
This is just the latest in a series of new infrastructure projects that Parks Canada has approved for Banff and Jasper National Parks without adequate regard to nature or the public interest. Recent examples include a proposed massive expansion of Lake Louise Ski Resort into untouched and legally protected wilderness, proposed commercial accommodation at Maligne Lake which is prohibited in the park management plan, the “Glacier Skywalk” which took a public viewpoint and turned it into a private pay-for-use theme park-like development, and large-scale summer use at the Mt. Norquay Ski Resort in sensitive wildlife habitat.
The law governing our national parks is clear that our parks are to be protected unimpaired for current and future generations of Canadians to enjoy, with nature as the number one priority. It’s time for Parks Canada to embrace their responsibility to protect nature first and foremost in our national parks. This means ensuring there is no increase in the development footprint in Banff and Jasper, and returning to open and transparent decision-making. The future of our beloved national parks depends on it.
Alison Ronson, executive director, CPAWS Northern Alberta Chapter
Andrea Johancsik, conservation specialist, Alberta Wilderness Association
Jill Seaton, chair, Jasper Environmental Association
Jim Pissot, director, WildCanada Conservation Alliance
Reg Bunyan, vicepresident, Bow Valley Naturalists
Stephen Legault, program director, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative