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New plan for Banff focuses on climate, transport, indigenous relations

Canada’s busiest national park aims to find better ways to keep visitors around in the years to come as it works to tackle climate change and strengthen relationships with Indigenous peoples .

It’s one of the highlights of the 2022 management plan for Banff National Park in Alberta, shaping the direction for the next decade.

Parks Canada also announced plans this week for other mountain national parks: Jasper and Waterton Lakes in Alberta, as well as Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier, and Yoho in British Columbia.

Each side maintains a commitment to protecting parks for future generations and has a new focus on climate change and indigenous relationships.

“Canadians expect us from talking about climate change to taking some action,” said Sal Rasheed, director of Banff, which attracts more than four million visitors a year.

That includes working with the town of Banff to create a community plan to deal with climate change, he said, adding electric or hybrid vehicles to Parks Canada’s fleet and reducing energy use in the region. its buildings.

PEOPLE MOVING THROUGH THE PARK

There’s also a focus, Rasheed said, on moving people around the park in a more sustainable way as more than eight million vehicles a year pass through – with at least half carrying visitors.

“Visitors are increasing and we need to pay attention to getting people to the right places efficiently and effectively.”

The 2022 plan has removed the reference to the gondola, which Rasheed said means the proposed cable car to the Mount Norquay ski hill from the town of Banff is undisputed.

“We’ve done our homework on it, assuming it’s not viable, and we’re moving on.”

The plan does not exclude a high-speed passenger train from Calgary, but says connecting an existing rail line could lead to more wildlife deaths in the park, a concern also raised by the authorities. environmental group mentioned.

Other transportation solutions, he said, could include expanding public transport, especially to crowded areas such as Lake Moraine and Lake Minnewanka.

There is also a focus on Indigenous relationships as part of the federal government’s reconciliation efforts, Rasheed said.

INDEPENDENT CONSULTING ROUND

Rasheed said an indigenous advisory group was established a few years ago and meets several times a year to help guide planning.

“For example, we’ve recently been rethinking how we ignite culture on our landscape. We’re trying to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into our Western approach to fire management.”

He said bringing the bison back to Banff’s homeland was also an important part of the reconciliation.

“We have partnered with the Stoney Nakoda Nation to manage bison using cultural insights,” said Rasheed, referring to a report led by Indigenous Peoples. Traditional knowledge can help the herd succeed.

Bison is seen in Banff National Park in Alberta in this undated handout image received April 22, 2022. The historic restoration of bison in Banff National Park returns an important native species for the landscape, fostering cultural reconnection, inspiring discovery and providing manageable and learning opportunities. PRESS CANADIAN / HO-Parks Canada-K. Heuer

The management plan says bison reintroduction, a five-year pilot project, will be evaluated in 2023.

Rasheed spoke of a herd of about 80 animals. “Exactly how many and what it looks like have yet to be determined.”

The plan recognizes grizzly bears, mountain goats, wolves, cougars and wolves as sensitive and important species for the park. It says that habitat security for these species must be maintained or improved by 2030.

Sarah Elmeligi, national parks program coordinator for the Canadian Wildlife and Parks Association’s southern Alberta chapter, said the plan is a significant step up from previous plans.

“As with all management plans, the devil is in the details,” she said. “That’s really how the management plan is delivered on the ground.”

Overall, though, Elmeligi said it looks like a good plan, especially with a focus on climate change.

A strategy for dealing with busy zones is also important, but should only be the first step, she says.

“It’s really important to think about how recreation in less common areas is impacting wildlife habitat and connectivity, as well as invasive and aquatic species,” she said. . “Human usage still needs to be regulated in those places.”

The plan considers new alpine huts, where there are “provable persistent public safety hazards.”

Elmeligi said CPAWS would be concerned if new commercial huts were built in remote areas. Any replacement facilities should not be expanded beyond their current footprint, she added.

Rasheed said he takes pride in the fact that Banff National Park is a 97% wilderness area.

“We have been very clear in our management plan that we will not have new commercial properties in the wilderness,” he said.

Some of the highlights of other management plans include: upgrading the famous Lake O’Hara campsite in Yoho; working to maintain reindeer populations in Jasper and evaluating archaeological sites in Waterton Lakes following the 2017 wildfires.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on August 27, 2022.

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