By Julien BESSET
Banff, Canada (AFP) May 28, 2017
On a highway in Banff National Park in western Canada, tourists hastily park their cars to catch a glimpse of a bear at the edge of the forest.
"We've seen some amazing animal life up here, much more than a lot of other places that we've gone camping," Tony Garland, a 60-something American who drove up from Seattle, told AFP.
Garland is part of a wave of American and Asian tourists flowing into Canada's national parks, known for their awe-inspiring beauty, in part thanks to a favorable exchange rate.
Record attendance is expected this year -- admission is free for both locals and foreign tourists as part of celebrations marking the country's founding 150 years ago.
But while the expected influx will be a boon to the tourism industry, the increased traffic also means more reckless behavior by visitors -- approaching or feeding wild animals, stomping on flora, and littering along park roadways.
That behavior has raised concerns about how best to ensure the natural wonders of the country's more than 40 treasured national parks are protected.
"Since January, we've doubled the number of reservations for campsites from what it was at the same time last year," said Parks Canada's Banff tourism manager Greg Danchuk.
"We have a responsibility to do both, to preserve nature and provide opportunities for people to visit," said Danchuk.
- More money, more problems -
Canada's national parks contribute Can$1.5 billion (US$1.1 billion) annually to the economy, and employ 22,700 people, according to government figures.
In its March budget, the federal government increased funding for Parks Canada by more than Can$300 million over the next two years.
But critics say that money is not going towards conservation efforts, and accuse the government agency of putting commercial interests first in recent years.
"By law, Parks Canada... actually have to put nature first and they haven't been," said Anne-Marie Syslak, executive director of the Alberta chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).
"Too many people too fast without conservation as the priority -- it's a real risk for these parks."
Garland acknowledged that he'd seen some dodgy behavior during his visit to Banff, located in the Rocky Mountains and the most popular of Canada's parks, with four millions visitors last year.
"Some of the people don't seem to be that educated (about wildlife)," he said. "They get out of their cars and go near the bears, which is kind of crazy."
- Development pressures -
Edward Johnson, an ecology professor at the University of Calgary in Alberta, said many communities on the edges of the towering Rocky Mountains, once full of miners and oil workers, have repurposed themselves as tourist havens.
In Johnson's view, tourism and conservation are not mutually exclusive -- monies spent locally by tourists can be used to support conservation efforts, for example.
"The more people who want to come out and see natural areas, the more likely you're able to preserve more natural areas," he explained, while adding: "It's a double-edged sword."
Johnson said studies on the impact of development over the long term are insufficient.
"You have to think carefully about your development and make everyone aware of what the consequences are, one way or the other," he said.
Also, Parks Canada is still spending more on tourism promotion than on conservation.
"Tourism and conservation should lie hand in hand," echoed Syslak, "because people are coming to these areas for their natural beauty and wildlife."
"We also have a responsibility to be stewards of these lands so that we have these animals and we keep these places in a good state for the future," she said.
Warsaw (AFP) May 24, 2017
Activists chained themselves to logging equipment in Poland's ancient Bialowieza forest on Wednesday, accusing authorities of felling trees in protected areas of the UNESCO World Heritage site. The move comes after a "final warning" by the European Commission sent to Warsaw in April saying it could take legal action to halt large-scale logging in Europe's last primeval woodland. Dawid K ... read more
Forestry News - Global and Local News, Science and Application
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|