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Wednesday, 17 July 2013 16:26

Taking care of Canada’s parks also makes economic sense

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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For the second year in a row, a poll by Abacus Data has caused quite a few raised eyebrows in Saskatchewan.


The survey asked Canadians to identify the best and worst provinces on various issues, ranging from the best and worst managed to the most and least friendly people.
As was the case in last year’s survey, Saskatchewan was again identified as the province with the least beautiful scenery. There was some good news because 43 per cent of respondents in the 2013 survey felt Saskatchewan’s scenery is ugly compared to 47 per cent in last year’s poll.
Anyone who has travelled in Saskatchewan will know this perception about the province’s natural beauty is completely off the mark. Its diverse landscapes vary from boreal forest to parkland and native prairie as well as badlands, sand dunes and thousands of lakes.
Many of Saskatchewan’s natural, cultural and historical landscapes are protected through a variety of park programs, which has been celebrated from July 14 to 20 through Saskatchewan Provincial Parks Week.
There are 34 provincial parks and three of them are reaching important milestones in 2013.
Saskatchewan Landing and Douglas Provincial Park, both situated on Lake Diefenbaker, are 40 years old and Buffalo Provincial Park near Moose Jaw is 50 years old.
There are also two national parks in Saskatchewan. The Prince Albert National Park protects the boreal forest and transition zone between parkland and northern forest. The Grasslands National Park is the only national prairie park to protect the remaining native grassland.
Canada has some of the oldest parks in the world and this year’s annual celebration of Canada’s Parks Day will take place tomorrow (July 20).
In anticipation of this event the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) has released its annual report on the state of the country’s parks.
The report presents a message of hope about opportunities to protect the country’s natural beauty, but it also highlights some significant issues of concerns.
“Overall, our assessment this year is that progress on creating and protecting Canada’s parks has taken one step forward and two steps back,” the report notes.
One of the success stories highlighted in the report is the creation of a new provincial park in Saskatchewan, the first new park in almost 20 years in the province.
The 35th provincial park is called the Great Blue Heron Provincial Park. It will protect 11,168 hectares of wetlands and lakes in the Anglin and Emma Lake-areas on the eastern boundary of Prince Albert National Park.
According to CPAWS the creation of this park is a positive step towards protecting more boreal habitat in Saskatchewan, which will address the impact of forestry activities and preserve woodland caribou habitat.
A July 4 announcement by the provincial government will result in the protection of even more land. The 3,660 square kilometres Pink Lake Representative Area Ecological Reserve is now the largest provincially designated protected area in Saskatchewan.
This area of boreal forest is located north of La Ronge and provides habitat for a variety of species, including woodland caribou. The ecological reserve designation means no new industrial development will take place.
The CPAWS report highlights a number of danger signs for parks across Canada. Some parks are facing specific pressures from nearby commercial development or oil exploration and fracking, but all national parks have to cope with the impact of federal budget cuts on park services and science and monitoring capacity.
In 2012, the federal government reduced Parks Canada's budget with nearly $30 million and as a result 638 jobs were declared surplus. It included 30 per cent of ecosystem scientist positions, which will impact on various research programs.
CPAWS cautions that all levels of government should not only view financial spending on parks as a “nice to have” budget item during good economic times.
For example, the country’s national, provincial and territorial parks contribute almost $5 billion annually to the Canadian economy, which is over $5 for every dollar spent by governments. These parks support 64,000 full-time jobs across Canada, many of them in rural areas.
Canadian society also benefits from the natural ecosystems in parks, for example the provision of clean water, the production of oxygen, erosion and flood protection and the natural storage of carbon.
Hopefully, more Canadians will enjoy Saskatchewan’s beautiful and varied scenery this summer.
But wherever they go to visit a park or natural area, they will understand that our lives are enriched when we have contact with nature.
Matthew Liebenberg is a reporter with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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