The AHA attends Jasper National Park's annual public forum
I attended the annual public forum of Jasper National Park as representative of the Alberta Hiking Association. The forum is intended to report Parks Canada's progress in implementing the park's management plan. Most of the information presented is available in the park's annual report, available from their web site at
http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/jasper/plan/rapports-reports.aspx. The forum was well attended, with about 60 people showing up.
The forum also provides an opportunity to meet and question parks staff. The long-time superintendent of Jasper, Greg Fenton, left the position last fall to accept an assignment as special advisor on development regulations with Parks Canada, prior to his planned retirement. The new superintendent, Alan Fehr, reported to the forum. Fehr was the acting field unit superintendent for Jasper from November 2014 to March 2015 while Fenton took a leave of absence.
Key items in the annual report that received special attention at the forum were Species At Risk, Mountain Pine Beetle, and Visitor Infrastructure Investment. There are seven species at risk that are found in the park, including woodland caribou, whitebark pine, two bat species (little brown myotis and northern myotis), two bird species (common nighthawk and olive-sided flycatcher), and Haller's apple moss. The parks staff member reporting on the Mountain Pine Beetle admitted there was no solution to the problem, but the advance could be slowed by selective removal and prescribed controlled burns. Areas affected by the beetle have tripled since the previous report.
The previous Conservative government announced $211 million in infrastructure funding for the park, over five years. Almost all of this will go to fixing front-country infrastructure. Only $1.7 million is going to conservation projects, and only two fairly short trails near the townsite will benefit. Mr. Fehr told me that returning decommissioned trails to service will not be a priority.
I also asked if there were plans in place to evaluate the on-line backcountry camping reservation system that Jasper is the first mountain park to introduce, beginning this year. I expressed a concern that campsites could go unused when people reserving them months in advance had to change their plans at the last minute. He said the cancellation fee could stop that from happening. It remains to be seen whether this will be a deterrent.
No information is available on whether the purchase of Maligne Tours by Brewster Travel, announced in January, will affect the possible development at Maligne Lake that was approved by the Parks Canada, but fought in the courts by environment groups.