The Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) is not happy with the provincial government’s decision to remove 164 of 473 sites from the Alberta Parks system.
Nearby Buffalo Lake Provincial Recreation Area and Rochon Sands Provincial Park are included in that list of parks that have been deemed under-utilized and are to be struck from the system.
In a letter to Environment and Parks minister Jason Nixon, AWA conservation specialist Grace Wark says the move has crossed a line and threatens the integrity of Alberta’s protected areas.
“We firmly believe that closing provincial parks won’t save money, benefit Albertans, or improve tourism,” she said.
The government claims the move, which includes the full or partial closure of 20 parks, will save money and pave the way for partnership opportunities.
“All 164 park spaces to be removed from the park system will remain wholly as crown land,” Nixon said.
“Albertans have expressed an interest in taking a more active role in the operation of some areas traditionally run by the province.”
The province has stated the parks to be closed operated at a $4.5 million loss with few visitors and questionable practices, making them not sustainable.
Wark says the move contradicts a promise to protect 17 per cent of land by 2021 and the claim they are under-utilized buries the plan to remove other parks.
“It is irresponsible to be removing parks and protected areas from our network. And it came out of the blue. There was no public consultation,” she said.
“Many of these sites are well-loved and incredibly popular.”
Wark also wondered about how these site will be operated.
“Protected areas operate under a legislated framework to conserve their natural heritage and provide recreation opportunities where compatible with environmental sustainability. The government’s decision provides no indication these vital principles for protection will be honoured,” she said.
She added there has been no accounting provided for the projected savings.
A full list of areas proposed for removal can be found at www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/ep-optimizing-alberta-parks.pdf.