February 28, 2020
Edmonton/Calgary – CPAWS Northern and Southern Alberta chapters are deeply concerned over the fate of parks and conservation in Alberta after budget announcements on Thursday. The budget of Fall 2019 saw a substantial 9.7% cut to the Alberta Parks budget, and this additional 10% cut in the 2020 budget will further degrade the ability of Alberta Parks to properly manage the areas designated to protect Alberta’s natural heritage.
According to the recent announcement, some of the reduction in the Parks budget will come from a decrease in spending on parks management, with plans to move some of the operations and managements of parks to private partners, and the removal of public funds to support these well-loved areas. “We are dismayed to see a reduction in funding for management of these areas and a move towards privatization of public land when Parks are something that Albertans so clearly love,” says CPAWS Southern Alberta Conservation Director, Katie Morrison, referencing park visitation numbers in the Alberta Environment and Parks Business Plan, which show that 63% of Albertans visited a park in 2018-2019.
The business plan also shows that the Government of Alberta does not intend to increase the amount of parks and protected areas, nor does it commit any funds for the creation of new protected areas. With Alberta currently sitting at 14.7% protection, this gap runs contrary to Alberta’s commitment to protect 17% of land and inland waters by the end of 2020, and Canada’s commitment to protect 25% by 2025. Meaningful protection of our wilderness has been globally agreed upon as essential to stemming the biodiversity crisis, and contributing towards climate action. CPAWS Northern Alberta’s Program Director, Tara Russell, voiced her concern: “Ignoring the needs for increased protection, in the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis is irresponsible, and a disservice to Albertans.”
The cuts to parks, protected areas, and public land management funding is hard to reconcile with the Alberta government’s protection goals, and its goals to more than double tourism revenue by 2030. CPAWS Southern Alberta’s Executive Director, Brad Clute, said “people travel to Alberta for its stunning natural beauty, and outdoor adventures. To remove funding to safeguard the reason tourists and Albertans want to spend money in our province, while likely increasing damage to those areas through increased visitation, makes no sense.”
The good news for nature in the 2020 budget is a committed funding to continue caribou conservation planning, which gives us hope that we will see progress towards this species’ recovery.
The budget also included funding allocated towards the land use planning process. “We are encouraged that there is some committed funding to continue land use planning,” said Chris Smith, CPAWS Northern Alberta’s Parks Coordinator. “We are concerned, however, that the amount allocated is only half of last year’s allocation, which saw little progress on regional plans. We fear that this indicates that the government is not planning to actively pursue this long overdue process.”
For more information please contact:
Chris Smith, Parks Coordinator, CPAWS Northern Alberta
Katie Morrison, Conservation Director, CPAWS Southern Alberta