Edmonton, AB – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) applauds the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change’s announcement last month that Parks Canada will not proceed with construction of the proposed Icefields Trail in Jasper National Park.
The proposed trail would have created a new paved corridor stretching 109 km south from the town of Jasper to the Columbia Icefields through some of the park’s most important alpine and sensitive valley bottom ecosystems. CPAWS and many Canadians voiced serious concerns about the project, including that it would fragment and destroy critical habitat for endangered caribou and other species-at-risk like grizzly bears and migratory birds contravening Parks Canada’s legal obligation to protect at-risk species. The trail proposal was inconsistent with the federal government’s promise to limit development in our national parks, and their legal obligation to prioritize ecological integrity above all else in national park management. Given its route through important grizzly bear habitat, the trail also raised serious concern for the safety of cyclists and bears alike.
“Today the Minister has shown that she is taking her government’s commitment to limit inappropriate development in national parks seriously and is listening to Canadians who consistently ask that our national parks be treated with respect and given the protection they deserve,” said Kecia Kerr, Executive Director of CPAWS Northern Alberta chapter. “We applaud the Minister’s decision not to proceed with this new paved trail, which would have cost endangered wildlife like caribou their homes, and Canadians over $100 million dollars.”
The federal government announced $65.9 million for Phase One of the proposed trail in federal budget 2016. This figure quickly ballooned to $86.4 million during initial public consultations, with estimates putting the current cost of the project at over $110 million. These estimates did not include the cost of emergency services and additional infrastructure that would have been needed to support the proposed trail.
“This decision in line with the mandate of the Minister, legislation, and it supports the recent Minister’s Round Table Report where thousands of Canadians voiced their support for protecting nature first in these special areas,” says Anne-Marie Syslak, Executive Director of CPAWS Southern Alberta chapter.
CPAWS looks forward to learning more about the Minister’s intended use of the money in Canada’s most treasured natural places.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land and water, and ensuring our parks are managed to protect the nature within them. In the past 56 years, we’ve played a lead role in protecting over half a million square kilometres – an area bigger than the entire Yukon Territory! Our vision is to protect at least half of our public land and water so that future generations can experience Canada’s irreplaceable wilderness.