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Lost Battle?

While the proposals to bring in more people into the parks were discussed in length, the fate of the killed wolves was remarkably under-reported. That wildlife regularly gets killed on the roads and rails carving through the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage site is nothing new. In fact – and sadly – it is a norm some people seem quite content to accept. Since 1980, roads and railways have killed at least 9,800 animals the size of a coyote or larger in Yoho, Kootenay, Banff and Jasper national parks. And these are only the confirmed deaths. The true number is certainly much higher.

Admittedly, the Trans Canada Highway (TCH)at Banff is fenced and wildlife highway-crossing structures are in place. But the problems are not solved. Not by a long shot. Between 2002 and 2010, roads were the main cause of the total collapse of the Banff/Bow Valley wolf pack, as documented orally and visually in my book The Will of the Land. Many of the pack members died on fenced-in sections of the TCH. 

However, Banff is not alone. In Jasper, cars and trains killed an average of eight black bears and 160 or so ungulates every single year between 1999 and 2008. A complete set of wildlife road and railway mortality data found inside the mountain parks can be viewed and/or downloaded on the following website link: http://www.terramagica.ca/Porta_website/ecologicalintegrity.html

While these numbers are shocking, one should remember that the transportation industry is not the only major obstacle to creating a stronghold for wildlife in Canada’s mountain parks. Mass tourism and large-scale commercial enterprises such as golf courses and ski hills also play a role in the midst of these highly protected and sensitive ecosystems. 

The federal government has a duty to look after these parks for the people of Canada. For 125 years neither our government nor the privately owned transportation and tourism industry has shown serious commitment to stop the record loss of wildlife on protected land. Yet record profits continue to pour in. One has to ask: if we are not even seriously willing to reduce our huge negative impact on protected land, then where else can nature thrive in a way that it forms a stronghold for flora and fauna? 

Via ferratas at Mount Norquay and a Glacier Discovery Walk at Tangle Ridge will just be the beginning. The beginning of still more usage of the territory of already overwhelmed and suffering wildlife in a place we thought we’d long ago set aside to preserve “unimpaired” for future generations. The death of the two black wolves on the CPR track represents the continuing trend of the fading call of the wild while the noises of civilization continue to grow – even inside our national parks. There are only two questions left: is anyone still listening? and are there enough “listeners” left who dare to take on a seemingly lost battle? 

The only hope for wildlife in our mountain national parks lies in a strong voice of concern by as many people as possible. Two such occasions arise right now, today, with the proposals put forward by the creators of industrial tourism inside highly sensitive and protected ecosystems. Citizens have the possibility to weigh in on the discussion at  opinion@pc.gc.ca.

As the first Parks commissioner, James B. Harkin, rightly pointed out a century ago: “The battle to establish parks may be won, but the battle to keep them inviolate is never won.”

I would argue that the many thousands of killed or displaced animals would agree.

 

DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion column, it is meant to provoke thought and debate. As such, any opinions written here are the writer’s own and do not reflect the viewpoint of any Fitzhugh staff member or the directors of the Jasper Media Group Inc.  

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