Progress Report on Implementation of the Recommendations of the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks

Chapter 12. Shrinking the Ecological Footprint
Panel Recommendation Considerations Action
(12-8) We recommend that Parks Canada adopt the principle of integrating environmental considerations into all projects. Include environmental assessment practitioners in all phases of a project, from concept to final construction, in partnership with the project manager. As a means of ensuring that ecological integrity becomes everyone's job, project managers, not the environmental assessment practitioner, must be responsible for meeting ecological integrity objectives related to their project. Parks Canada's current directive on environmental assessment provides direction on the implementation of impact assessments for all proposed policies, programs, plans and projects, whether they originate internally or externally. It stipulates that environmental assessment is to be initiated at the beginning of the project process and that Field Unit Superintendents are responsible for ensuring that environmental assessment obligations are met for each project. UNDER WAY - FUNDING. Future compliance audits of Parks Canada's environmental assessment program will examine whether the assessments are initiated early enough, and whether project managers are using the process to ensure that ecological integrity objectives are respected in project planning. The extent and timing of progress in this area are subject to the availability of new funding.
(12-9) We recommend that Parks Canada enhance its expertise in understanding and managing cumulative effects (Chapter 4). In 1997, Parks Canada developed a guide to environmental assessments of cumulative effects. This guide is a highly respected reference both nationally and internationally. Parks Canada played a leading role in sponsoring and planning a national cumulative effects conference, held in Calgary in November 2000. UNDER WAY. Parks Canada recognizes the importance of assessing cumulative impacts and will continue to develop its expertise in managing and understanding them.
(12-10) We recommend that Parks Canada provide individual national parks with the authority to set an annual date beyond which project proposals will not be accepted. This will enable environmental assessment staff to organize their workload and will provide a reference point as an aid in evaluating cumulative effects. Park Management Plans should provide an assessment of cumulative effects and identify quantitative targets for limiting cumulative effects over the period of the Park Management Plan (Chapter 3). A national park currently has the authority to set an annual date beyond which no new project proposals will be accepted. DONE. The revised Parks Canada Guide to Management Planning requires that environmental assessments of management plans consider both the individual and cumulative impacts from existing use, development and facilities. A Guide to Environmental Assessments of Management Plans has been drafted and will emphasize that the assessment of cumulative impacts is a critical component in the assessment of park management plans.
(12-11) We recommend that Parks Canada provide training in environmental assessment for all prospective project managers, and provide professional development and networking opportunities for specialist and practitioner positions. Service Centres provide training to Field Unit staff when required and training is also available from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Professional development and networking is provided through an annual national meeting for environmental assessment specialists from Field Units, Service Centres and National Office, through two linked Intranet sites devoted to environmental assessment, and through conference and workshop attendance. UNDER WAY - FUNDING. The ecological integrity training and orientation program that is currently under development will include reference to the application of environmental assessment in support of the maintenance of ecological integrity. Additional training specific to environmental assessment is subject to the availability of new funding.
(12-12) We recommend Parks Canada establish a policy formally adopting the precautionary principle to ensure that risk to national park ecosystems is reduced. Park Management Plans should contain a statement describing how the park will apply the precautionary principle in managing development proposals. The new Canada National Parks Act requires that maintaining ecological integrity is the first consideration in all management decisions relating to national parks. Parks Canada submits all management plans and project proposals to an environmental impact assessment. DONE. The revised Parks Canada Guide to Management Planning requires that environmental assessments of management plans use the precautionary principle to guide the evaluation of residual impacts and their acceptability.

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