Ecological Integrity, Visitor Use, and Marketing of Canada’s National Parks.


  • Paul F. Wilkinson


Canada, national parks, ecological integrity, visitor use, allowable uses, appropriate uses, social marketing, product marketing, demarketing, policy, case study


In November 1998, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Hon. Sheila Copps, appointed a Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada’s National Parks. The impetus for the process arose from amendments to the National Parks Act in 1988 which specified that the maintenance and preservation of ecological integrity was the primary consideration in the management of national parks. A new version of the National Parks Act, the Canada National Parks Act, passed by Parliament in November 2000, strengthens this mandate. The objectives of the Panel were to identify issues, examine Parks Canada’s approach for maintaining ecological integrity, and provide recommendations for improvement.Ecological integrity is defined as follows: “an ecosystem has integrity when it is deemed characteristic for its natural region, including the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes.” In plain language, ecosystems have integrity when they have their native components (plants, animals and other organisms) and processes (such as growth and reproduction) intact.The Panel members travelled to a series of representative national parks to speak with park staff , other government officials, representatives of First Nations, non-governmental organizations, representatives of industry (e.g., tourism, forestry, mining, petroleum), and other interested Canadians, in order to see first-hand the problems and stresses that threaten Canada’s national parks and to develop a sense of how to address these problems and stresses.The Panel’s two-volume report was submitted to the Minister in February 2000 and made public by the Minister in March 2000. One section of the report emphasized that use and enjoyment of national parks have been among the historical goals for Canada’s national parks and will continue to be major elements of the Canadian character and heritage. In order to protect ecological integrity, however, human use in national parks must be based on the principle of responsible experience: use without abuse. Human use must also pass the dual tests of allowability and appropriateness. That is, some uses should be prohibited in all national parks and some activities and/or levels of activity should not be permitted in particular parks, park areas or seasons. This paper examines the context of human use in national parks and an approach to implementing a process for determining allowability and appropriateness and calls for an end to the product marketing of Canada’s national parks on the grounds of maintaining ecological integrity. It also recommends the de-marketing of some parks through curbing certain types and levels of use and informing visitors and others of the negative impacts of such use on the ecological integrity of the parks.The paper ends with a postscript noting some of the initial outcomes resulting from the Panel’s recommendations, including an example of a national park’s draft marketing plan being rejected by park management as not being consistent with the Panel’s recommendations.





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