Nahanni National Park in the Northwest Territories
Most people go to Banff, Alberta at this time of year for skiing.
But my colleagues and I are going to be there next week for an entirely different reason: the 2017 Canadian Parks Conference!
Hundreds of people who work in a variety of ways related to parks in Canada and many representing everything from massively large national and provincial parks (mostly in the north) to small municipal parks (in urban areas mostly in the south) will be there. There is a great lineup of speakers and workshop sessions. My colleagues and I will be there speaking about the role of parks and other forms of protected areas in impacting the state of biodiversity in Canada, climate change and carbon, and key opportunities for Canada to achieve its international and national commitments around these issues. There are some obvious ways to obtain win-win solutions to for federal, provincial, territorial, and indigenous governments by looking at protecting overlapping values like intact ecosystems, healthy populations of woodland caribou and other species at risk, and large stores of carbon in natural habitats.
Certainly the biggest new idea in parks that Canada needs to showcase internationally is the leadership of Indigenous governments and communities in developing land-use plans for their traditional lands, implementing Indigenous Protected Areas, and proposing a variety of protected areas/parks. Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial governments need to embrace this leadership. They need to move much more quickly to begin providing increased financial support to Indigenous governments for this work. In the short term, there is an urgent need to move swiftly to validate existing land-use plans and protected area proposals already completed by Indigenous governments across Canada.