EDMONTON – Conservation groups remain hopeful that a concept proposal for overnight commercial accommodations at Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park will be stopped after a Federal Court ruling confirmed that proposals violating park management plans cannot be approved.
The February 8 ruling came in response to a legal challenge brought by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and Jasper Environmental Association (JEA). The groups, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, had argued that Parks Canada’s concept approval of proposed commercial accommodations at Maligne Lake undermined the law by contravening the park’s Management Plan, which explicitly prohibits the release of new land for overnight commercial accommodations outside of the Jasper town site.
The Court decision did not quash the concept approval for the proposed project, concluding that Parks Canada can consider conceptual proposals that may be contrary to a Management Plan, but it did rule that, ultimately, proposals that contravene the Management Plan cannot receive final approval.
“We’re happy to see the Court agrees that Parks Canada must comply with its own Management Plan,” said Alison Ronson, Executive Director of CPAWS’ northern Alberta chapter. “We are still reviewing the decision and considering next steps, but we note that since we brought this case forward the new federal government has promised to limit commercial development in national parks and to focus on supporting eco-tourism in gateway communities instead. We are hopeful that this trend will continue moving forward.”
If approved, the groups believe that this development at Maligne Lake would set a bad precedent that could lead to greater development pressures throughout the national parks. It could also put park wildlife, in particular the endangered Maligne caribou herd and sensitive grizzly bear populations, at greater risk.