3.0 Protecting and Managing Park Ecosystems

3.0 Protecting and Managing Park Ecosystems

Management for park purposes differs markedly from that of other lands, where effort may be directed toward modifying or controlling nature, producing crops or extracting natural resources. Within national parks, effort is directed at maintaining ecosystems in as natural a state as possible. This goal has far-reaching implications in that many concepts and practices that are relevant or essential to successful resource management on other lands are inappropriate in national parks.

Sustaining the integrity of park ecosystems will be a major challenge in the coming years. Parks seldom contain complete or unaltered ecosystems. This, combined with increasing and cumulative stress from sources such as adjacent land use, downstream effects of air and water pollution, invasion by exotic species, visitor use and climate change can result in irreversible degradation of park ecosystems, the loss of biodiversity and impoverishment of gene pools. In recognizing the challenge, Parks Canada has produced the Strategic Framework to Sustain the Integrity of Ecosystems, which contains principles to which this Policy conforms and which are reflected in the following statements.

Ecosystem management provides a conceptual and strategic basis for the protection of park ecosystems. It involves taking a more holistic view of the natural environment and ensuring that land use decisions take into consideration the complex interactions and dynamic nature of park ecosystems and their finite capacity to withstand and recover from stress induced by human activities. The shared nature of ecosystems also implies that park management will have effects on surrounding lands and their management.

To be effective, ecosystem management must be far-reaching and have a broad base of support. In particular it requires understanding and collaboration among all those whose activities influence the ecological integrity of the park. Parks Canada must demonstrate leadership by working closely with other land management agencies to develop a better understanding of the relationship between existing land use practices and their effects on the natural environment. National parks are becoming increasingly important in national and international efforts to maintain biodiversity and genetic resources. Consequently, Parks Canada negotiates specific agreements with provincial and territorial planning and conservation agencies and also supports involvement in the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program as a means of integrating regional planning around parks.

Ecosystem management must be credible and therefore solidly based in science. Thus, the concept of partnerships is particularly important since universities, conservation organizations and the private sector have much to contribute towards research and environmental monitoring initiatives within national parks.

When research confirms that the structure and function of park ecosystems have been seriously altered by human activities, and that reliance on natural processes alone cannot achieve restoration objectives, intervention may be warranted. Since management action to restore ecosystems will have far-reaching and long-lasting effects, caution must be exercised. Management must be guided by the establishment of clear, practical and measurable objectives that are consistent with the park management plan and by the rigorous application of science in the collection and interpretation of research and monitoring data.

3.1 Ecosystem Protection

National park ecosystems will be given the highest degree of protection to ensure the perpetuation of natural environments essentially unaltered by human activity.

Human activities within a national park that threaten the integrity of park ecosystems will not be permitted. Where ecosystem integrity is threatened by human activities outside the park, Parks Canada will initiate collaborative action with adjacent land management agencies or owners to try to eliminate or reduce the threat.

Parks Canada will prevent new sources of pollution from developing within national parks and will take action to eliminate or minimize existing sources inside or outside parks. Pollution concerns which are localized will be addressed at the park level, while those which are wide ranging will be addressed in cooperation with other appropriate government agencies.

Sport hunting will not be permitted in a national park. Sport fishing may be permitted in a national park but will be restricted to designated areas.

Parks Canada, in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, will ensure compliance with the National Parks Act and Regulations and other relevant legislation to protect natural resources, maintain the public peace and protect life and property. Strict enforcement action will be taken to detect and stop illegal activities such as poaching and pollution.

The public will be consulted in the development of park regulations and visitors will be made aware of the rationale for such regulations.

3.2 Ecosystem-Based Management

In keeping with park management plans, Parks Canada will establish measurable goals and management strategies to ensure the protection of ecosystems in and around national parks.

Decision-making associated with the protection of park ecosystems will be scientifically based on internationally accepted principles and concepts of conservation biology.

National park ecosystems will be managed with minimal interference to natural processes. However, active management may be allowed when the structure or function of an ecosystem has been seriously altered and manipulation is the only possible alternative available to restore ecological integrity.

Provided that park ecosystems will not be impaired, the manipulation of naturally occurring processes such as fire, insects and disease may take place when no reasonable alternative exists and when monitoring has demonstrated, that without limited intervention:

i) there will be serious adverse effects on neighbouring lands; or
ii) major park facilities, public health or safety will be threatened; or
iii) the objectives of a park management plan prescribing how certain natural features or cultural resources are to be maintained cannot be achieved.

Where manipulation is necessary it will be based on scientific research, use techniques that duplicate natural processes as closely as possible, and be carefully monitored.

An integrated data base will be developed and kept up to date for each national park to provide, along with research and environmental monitoring, the baseline information required to protect and maintain park ecosystems and contribute to State of the Parks reporting to Parliament. In defining information needs, the spatial and temporal dimensions of park ecosystems and ecosystem processes will be a primary consideration. Therefore, data requirements will regularly extend beyond park boundaries.

Parks Canada will work with other government agencies, universities and conservation organizations involved in conservation biology and environmental monitoring to develop integrated programs for the collection, storage, analysis and interpretation of data.

Parks Canada will actively promote national parks as sites for scientific research that will contribute to the long-term protection and better public understanding of ecosystems. Parks Canada will initiate projects or cooperate in programs sponsored by other government agencies and the scientific community to ensure that benchmark research areas are established and maintained in national parks to better understand the effects of human activity on ecosystems both inside and outside national parks.

Parks Canada will take the lead role in establishing integrated and collaborative management agreements and programs with adjacent land owners and land management agencies. Parks Canada will seek mutually satisfactory solutions to trans-boundary concerns associated with the management of shared ecosystem components, the effects of adjacent land use practices on park ecosystems, or the effects of park management practices on the use of adjacent lands. Parks Canada will also participate in regional land use planning and management initiatives sponsored by other jurisdictions to encourage the understanding and cooperation of other agencies in protecting park ecosystems, and for Parks Canada to better understand the management concerns of those other agencies.

A species of plant or animal, which was native to but is no longer present in a park, may be reintroduced after scientific research has shown that reintroduction is likely to succeed and that there will be no significant negative effects on the park and neighbouring lands. Parks Canada will seek the cooperation of adjacent land owners and land management agencies to ensure the success of reintroduction programs.

All practical efforts will be made to prevent the introduction of exotic plants and animals into national parks, and to eliminate or contain them where they already exist.

In each national park, an array of representative and unique aquatic ecosystems will be closed to sport fishing. In addition, opportunities will be provided for benchmark research on, and interpretation of, aquatic systems that may require that other areas be closed to sport fishing.

Where fish populations can sustain some harvest without impairing resources, angling may be permitted in designated areas. Regulations will be conservatively based on continuing stock assessments and will conform to the principle that angling is part of an overall aquatics program involving public education, recreation and ecosystem protection.

Fish stocking will be discontinued except where necessary to restore indigenous fish populations that have been adversely affected by habitat modification.

When studies indicate that structures such as weirs and dams have seriously altered aquatic ecosystems and restoration of these ecosystems is feasible, Parks Canada will have these structures removed and rehabilitate the area.

Parks Canada will be exemplary in the implementation of federal legislation pertaining to environmental assessment and review in national parks. In addition, all programs, policies and plans will be subject to environmental assessment. Parks Canada is committed to making the results of all assessments available to the public.

Parks Canada will participate in environmental impact assessments for proposed developments outside national parks that may affect park ecosystems.

When extractive activities are permitted in a national park pursuant to sections 1.4.11 and 1.4.12, Parks Canada will place a high priority on the management, monitoring and regulation of harvesting activities. Predator control or habitat modification to artificially enhance the availability of resources for harvesting will not be permitted.

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