Expert parks visitation panel missing crucial expertise

Lack of representation from experienced ecologists and social scientists on panel is concerning

May 28, 2021

(Calgary, Alberta) – On May 26, Parks Canada announced the members of a new expert panel examining visitor movement in Banff National Park. The group of nine people will be working to advise Parks Canada on a long-term framework for how visitors will get around the Bow Valley and experience Banff National Park. The need for a strategic panel such as this has been building in Banff National Park over the past decade as visitation continues to rise beyond sustainable ecological and social limits. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and the Bow Valley Naturalists are encouraged to see Parks Canada move forward with this initiative.

The panel consists of nine people with wide-ranging expertise spanning from emergent transportation solutions and urban planning to tourism management and innovation. Although the participants each bring valuable expertise and perspective to the conversation, there is expertise missing. Experienced ecologists or recreation ecologists are not included.

The panel lacks someone who specializes in understanding the ecological integrity of Banff National Park and who has experience researching or managing recreationists to provide high-quality visitor experiences while minimizing impacts to ecosystems. Although Parks Canada is committed, and legally bound, to prioritize ecological integrity, the panel does not contain someone with expertise regarding wildlife movement and habitat use around people.  

“While we are pleased to see the diversity of expertise of the panel, we find it troubling that there appears to be no one on the panel who can specifically speak to ecological or wildlife research in the context of park visitation in Banff National Park,” said Anna Pidgorna, CPAWS National Senior Conservation Coordinator.

Also missing is a social scientist who works with visitor motivations, expectations, and overall experiences in parks and protected areas.

“We see a glaring omission on the makeup of the panel and that is the lack of social science representation,” said Reg Bunyan of the Bow Valley Naturalists. “Whatever steps are taken to manage transportation will undoubtedly have ripple effects on human uses and experiences throughout the park. Understanding the breadth of those effects requires the expertise of a social scientist.”

CPAWS and Bow Valley Naturalists have been requesting that Parks Canada investigate human use management strategies across Banff National Park for over a decade. In late 2020, CPAWS released a report defining a path forward to create a human use strategy for Banff National Park.

“We are pleased that Parks Canada has put efforts in place to strategically address some aspects of visitor use in Canada’s busiest National Park,” said Katie Morrison, CPAWS Southern Alberta Conservation Director. “We look forward to working with this panel, participating in public consultations, and following the process closely to ensure that ecological needs of the landscape are addressed, and that ecological integrity remains the priority in National Park management.”

CPAWS is Canada’s voice for wilderness. Since 1967, the Southern Alberta Chapter has provided science-based support and advice to conserve Alberta’s parks and wild spaces. Our chapter has reached more than 150,000 Albertans with award-winning environmental education programs since 1997.

TheBow Valley Naturalists (BVN)are a group of nature enthusiasts who live in the Bow Valley, who have been active in learning about local ecosystems and advocating for their protection for over 50 years. Our mission is to protect, preserve, and stimulate better appreciation for natural ecosystems in the Bow Valley through education and advocacy.

For further comment please contact:

Katie Morrison
CPAWS Southern Alberta Conservation Director

Reg Bunyan
Bow Valley Naturalists