The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) says Canada’s natural preserves are under increasing threat from commercial development and lousy government management.

CPAWS’ sixth annual review of park conditions across the country paid special attention to problems in Alberta where commercial and industrial activities continue to challenge the ability of national and provincial parks to act as functional ecological preserves.

One of the main concerns in the CPAWS report is a resort development in Jasper National Park proposed by Maligne Tours. Federal government policy states no new commercial overnight accommodations can be built in national parks outside of park towns such as Banff or Jasper yet the government could ignore this policy and approve the resort application.

Katie Morrison CPAWS’ conservation officer for Southern Alberta says one of the main problems with this resort is that it would be in the middle of the Maligne Valley mountain caribou herd’s range. The herd population has declined to a handful of animals over the past 15 years and CPAWS fears Maligne Tour’s hotel would seal the herd’s fate.

Morrison says CPAWS also fears that if the government approves the resort it would create a precedent to continue to ignore its own policy despite decades of scientific research indicating these commercial activities have a negative effect on wildlife.

“They put that policy in for a reason so it’s definitely a concern that if they make an exception in this one case then what’s to stop them from making continued exceptions?” she asks.

The province was also called out in the review for failing to add new protected wilderness areas such as the Castle-Crown region in southwestern Alberta.

“It’s such an important area in Alberta and we’re still seeing reluctance to protect this really special area” says Morrison. “A lot of these delays in creating new parks do appear to be linked to a reluctance to put any area off limits to industrial development and I think the Castle is not an exception to that” she adds.

The report recommends the federal government add $40 million per year to fund national parks split equally between nature conservation initiatives and creating and running new parks.