Alberta needs to complete a system of protected areas throughout its diverse natural regions - and the species at risk that live within them. Achieving a targeted increase in protection is not only possible, but essential to our health and wealth.
The beauty of Banff National Park is cherished by people the world over, and not least by nearby residents. The picturesque mountain peaks, lined with pine trees that look equally majestic covered in snow as they do in their vibrant summer green, are stunning year-round. People from around the globe can come and marvel at its splendor due in no small part to the fact that this was designated as Canada’s first national park – and the second in the world after Yellowstone. For over a century the famous landscape has changed relatively little, protected from industry and environmental threats through legislation. During that time, the Alberta economy has risen and fallen, with more than enough unprotected land to drive the resource-dependent prosperity of the province.
There are also plenty of other protected areas within the landlocked provincial borders: As of 2016, there were 76 provincial parks, 32 wildland provincial parks, 208 provincial recreation areas, 15 ecological reserves, 3 wilderness areas, 139 natural areas and 2 heritage rangeland areas. The Alberta government has committed to protecting 17 percent of Alberta’s landscape by 2020. As of June 2018, 14.6 percent of Alberta is protected: 8.2 percent as National Parks and 6.4 percent as provincial protected areas.
“The backbone of conserving nature, protected areas provide large, intact spaces where wildlife can roam and we can learn and play for generations to come” -Alberta Wilderness Association
However, while some of Alberta’s natural areas (like the Rocky Mountains) are relatively well protected, many of Alberta’s Natural Regions - including Grasslands, Parkland and Foothills - are poorly represented under the current legislation. This has led to widespread declines in habitat and wildlife. A telling example is the Grasslands Natural Region, where less than two percent is currently protected - and we know more than three quarters of Alberta’s species at risk rely on prairie habitats.
Simply put, more action needs to be taken to jump from 14.6 to 17 percent in protected area land coverage in the province.
While the benefits of protected areas differ around the world based on quality, funding, capacity, and overall ability to adequately patrol boundaries, Canada (and especially Alberta) is fortunate to have some of the most well-managed parks and designated protected areas on earth. This means that Alberta lands designated for protection are living up to their designation.
Now we just need to increase the amount.
“We have spectacular wilderness in Alberta, much of it under some form of protection. [All] of it has had to be fought for - will always have to be fought for... The struggle to retain and repair wilderness is conducted not just by a few individuals, but by large numbers of committed people, from all walks of life, all working in various ways toward the same end.” - Dave Mayhood
HOW YOU CAN BECOME INVOLVED
Make your voice heard
Take a moment to sign a pre-written letter to the provincial government that urges a continued commitment to achieving Alberta’s protected area land coverage goal. Submit this letter by clicking here or by visiting www.albertawilderness.ca/issues/wildlands/protected-areas
Participate in events
Join wilderness and wildlife-focused events put on by a variety of environmental groups in Alberta. Check out the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s events page or www.albertawilderness.ca/events/ for a list of fun and family-friendly activities that will ultimately help increase conservation within the province.
Support Alberta-focused environmental groups
Volunteer your time with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative, or the Alberta Wilderness Association. If you are short on time you can also make donations to these organizations by clicking on the logos below:
Share this article and any other informative pieces that promote conservation in the beautiful province of Alberta. Awareness is a powerful thing!