Approval of concept plan to add overnight commercial accommodation at Maligne Lake threatens park protection, groups say
EDMONTON — Conservation groups are in court today to challenge Parks Canada’s approval of a concept plan to build overnight commercial accommodations at Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, alleging that it would undermine the law and set a dangerous precedent for protection of Canada’s national parks.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and Jasper Environmental Association are being represented by Ecojustice lawyers in this lawsuit, which aims to quash Parks Canada’s concept approval of commercial tent cabins at Maligne Lake and stop further inappropriate commercial development in Canada’s national parks.
“The Management Plan for Jasper National Park was put in place to protect and preserve our park’s ecological integrity. We are arguing that Parks Canada should not be allowed to break their own rules just to further commercial interests,” says Ecojustice lawyer Melissa Gorrie.
The 2010 Management Plan for Jasper National Park explicitly prohibits the release of new land for overnight commercial accommodations outside of the Jasper town site, yet Parks Canada intends to change the plan to allow a tourism company to construct tent cabins at Maligne Lake.
“Allowing these tent cabins to be built at Maligne Lake would set a very troubling precedent that could open the floodgates to further inappropriate commercial development in Jasper and elsewhere in our national parks,” says Alison Ronson, Executive Director of CPAWS’ northern Alberta chapter.
Since the lawsuit was filed last year, Parks Canada has given the go-ahead to troubling commercial development proposals in several other national parks. For example, in August 2015, guidelines for the Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff National Park were approved that allow for a doubling of the ski area’s capacity and infrastructure, including expansion into a currently protected wilderness area that includes sensitive wildlife habitat.
The approval of the Maligne Lake concept plan would put park wildlife, in particular the endangered Maligne caribou herd and local grizzly bear populations, at greater risk.
“Overnight accommodations at Maligne Lake would bring increased foot and vehicle traffic to the area at night and in the early mornings when wildlife is most active,” said Jill Seaton, chair of the Jasper Environmental Association. “This presents both ecological and safety concerns because Maligne Lake is within the habitat of an endangered caribou herd and is part of an important grizzly bear corridor.”
“We need to protect our national parks so that the full range of wildlife they shelter will continue to survive, and future generations will be able to experience these extraordinary natural places just as we can today,” says Alison Ronson.