New Alberta Parks Ministry to Open New Campgrounds

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The government of Canada has been continuously making efforts to support its tourism industry which was among the hardest hit sector amid the pandemic–paving the way to create more opportunities to boost economic and tourism growth in its provinces and territories. 

According to a report from CBC Canada, Alberta’s (Canada) new provincial ministry head overseeing Alberta parks aims to open more parks and make them more accessible to people. 

“We want to have parks for the people,” Forestry, Parks and Tourism Minister Todd Loewen said after receiving his mandate letter from Premier Danielle Smith.

However, critics warn that the letter put the tourism cart ahead of the environmental horse. 

Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said environmental management has to be a priority. 

As per the Alberta Provincial Parks Act, there are five reasons why provincial parks should be created, and four of them pertain to the preservation of ecosystems, while one is related to “use and enjoyment.”

Smith’s letter discussed topics related to tourism seven times over its two pages. 

Smith’s letter directs Loewen to create campgrounds as well as tourism and recreation opportunities on provincial lands. Loewen is expected to speed up the approval of permits and licenses, develop a tourism and hospitality immigration stream, and upgrade tourist infrastructure in high-traffic areas.

Smith also urges the minister to devise methods to manage grasslands and forests in provincial areas to conserve carbon.

The department, according to Loewen, is looking into locations to expand campgrounds and other facilities.

He added that there’s plenty of room out there and that there’s a very small part of the landscape that’s actually used by campgrounds.

He added that in order for people to enjoy the great outdoors, it should be made accessible for everyone. 

Campgrounds are important. However, Morrison said it is not for sensitive areas that can be affected by human use. 

Campbell is also concerned that more lands will be opened up to forestry as the letter mentions shortening wait times for the licenses and permits Loewen’s ministry issues.

She said that there is too little consultation in terms of forestry. “Things are not transparent.”

Loewen said he hadn’t given much consideration to the forestry side of his portfolio yet.

Campbell said Smith’s decision to hive off parks from the environment department — where it used to be — is a warning.

“The logic of the ministry’s name seems to be more revenue generation from the parks, which is not appropriate or sustainable. Environmental responsibility is first.”

Morrison said Albertans want to see more protected land, not less, citing an online survey conducted for a group of 1,000 Albertans.

The survey revealed that 59% of respondents felt the province’s provincial and national park systems should be larger. It also suggested that about three-quarters of respondents felt more land should be set aside for wildlife and left as wilderness with minimal human impact.

Around the same percentage expressed that more parks should be created with a focus on recreation and leisure.

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