Parks Sector Overview

AuthorElaine L. Hughes, Arlene J. Kwasniak, Alastair R. Lucas
Laura D Kumpf* and Elaine L Hughes
Canada is globally renowned for its parks. Canada’s f‌irst national park
was established in 1885 in Ban ff and was protected in the public inter-
est. In 1911, the world’s f‌irst national parks service wa s created, the
Dominion Parks Branch, now called Parks Canada. Between 1900 and
1920, Wood Buffalo National Park and Elk Island Nationa l Park were
created for the conservation of bison. In 1976, Nahanni National Park
became the world’s f‌irst UNESCO natural World Heritage Site.1 Can-
ada was also the f‌irst industrialized western nation to ratify the Co n-
vention on Biological Diversity.2 The 1992 convention, which reaff‌irms
in its preamble the importance of biological diversity, also states, “the
fundamental requi rement for the conservation of biological divers-
ity is the in-situ conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats and
the maintenance and recover y of viable populations of species in their
natural surroundings.” Article 8(a) of the convention states that each
* Laura Kumpf ( JD, Alberta) is a corporate law yer and associate in t he Edmonton
off‌ice of Miller Thomson L LP. She was a researc h assistant for this s ection during
her time as a law st udent at the University of Alber ta Faculty of Law.
1 Kevin McNamee, “Nat ional Parks of Canada,” online: H istorica Canada w ww.
2 Convention on Biologica l Diversity, 5 June 1992, 1760 UNTS 79, 31 ILM 818
(1992) (entered into force 29 December 1993). Note Canada wa s the f‌irst West-
ern industr ialized nation to rat ify.
party shall “est ablish a system of protected areas or area s where special
measures need to be t aken to conserve biological diversity.”
According to Natural Resources Canada, Canada cur rently has
8,500 protected areas, which is roughly 9.9 percent of its land base, 31
million hectares of which consists of forests and wooded areas, with
23.5 million hectares str ictly protected.3 Further, “95% of protected
lands are within [International Union for Conservation of Nature] Cat-
egories I to IV, which largely prohibit industrial activities such a s for-
est har vesting, mining and hydroelectric developme nt.”4 In 1992, the
federal, territorial, and provincial governments made a commitment to
create a representative network of ecological regions under A Statement
of Commitment to Complete Canada’s Networks of Protected Areas.5
By 2009, they managed to create protected areas in twenty-eight out
of thirty-nine terrestrial regions but in only two out of twenty-nine
marine regions.6 The Organi sation for Economic Co-operation and
Development has ranked Canada 70th globally for its ocean protec-
tion.7 The international ta rget is to have 12 percent protected areas
while Canada ha s protected 10 percent. Over 60 percent are less than
10 square kilometres; as such Canada only ranks sixteen out of thirty
for areas protected but ranks four out of forty for strong protection
within the are as designated.8 However, some provinces, such as Brit-
ish Columbia, have met the 12 percent target. The United States has
doubled the international target by protecting 25 percent.9
The parks sector is unique in that it embod ies an array of natural
resources, which gain protection depending on the t ype of park desig-
nation. Parks designations vary federally and provincial ly and fall on a
spectrum of being st rictly protected to being not protected at all (open
for public use). David Boyd separates the desig nations as generally fall-
ing into four categories: parks, wilderness areas, ecological reser ves,
3 Natural Resou rces Canada, “Protected A reas,” online: forests/
4 Ibid.
5 Philip Dearden, “P rogress and Problems in Ca nada’s Protected Areas: Over view
of Progress, C hronic Issues and Emergi ng Challenges in the Early 21st Cent ury”
in Meinhar d Doelle & Chris Tollefson, Environmental L aw: Cases and Materials
(Toronto: Carswell, 2009) at 375.
6 Bruce Mitchell, ed, Resource and En vironmental Management in Cana da: Ad-
dressing Conf‌lict and Uncerta inty, 4th ed (Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford Un iversity
Press Can ada, 2004) at 330.
7 Fisheries an d Oceans Canada, Spotlight on Mar ine Protected Areas in Canada (Ot -
tawa: Fisher ies and Oceans Canad a, 2010) at 3.
8 Mitchell, above note 6 at 331.
9 Mitchell, ibid at 330.

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