Assessing the impacts of adjacent land use

7.61 Parks Canada’s (the Agency’s) 2011 State of Canada’s Natural and Historic Places report identifies adjacent land use—such as industrial forestry operations—as a key threat to ecological integrity. The report notes that forestry operations and other land developments adjacent to national parks may directly affect the health of a park’s flora and fauna. This is especially true for animal species that regularly move beyond park boundaries to meet basic needs such as breeding, or rearing young. When adjacent land use is incompatible with conservation, parks become isolated, reducing their effectiveness.

7.62 Parks Canada’s Guiding Principles and Operational Policies document requires national parks to make concerted efforts to encourage compatible activities on adjacent lands and to discourage incompatible ones, and to establish measurable goals and management strategies to ensure the protection of ecosystems in and around national parks. Where activities outside a park threaten ecological integrity, Parks Canada is expected to initiate action with adjacent land managers, with the aim of eliminating or reducing the threat.

7.63 We examined whether Agency officials had

  • identified and assessed the potential impact of adjacent land-use activities,
  • identified actions for addressing adjacent land-use activities that may have an impact on ecological integrity within the park,
  • established measurable goals and management strategies for addressing the potential impacts,
  • participated in regional land-use planning with the aim of mitigating the impact of adjacent land-use practices on park ecosystems, and
  • worked with adjacent land managers to alleviate the impact of incompatible adjacent land use.
Actions have been taken to address the impacts of adjacent land uses on parks

7.64 Park officials use various means to understand risks of adjacent land use, such as participating in regional land-use planning exercises, sitting on public advisory boards related to resource-extraction industries, and partnering with local organizations such as conservation authorities. We found that officials in all nine parks had identified the potential impacts on ecological integrity from adjacent land-use activities such as agriculture, forestry, urbanization, and hydroelectric dams.

7.65 Although no systematic approach was in place to establish measurable goals and strategies to alleviate the effects of incompatible land uses on the park ecosystems, we found that officials in most parks could demonstrate that they had taken action and worked cooperatively with adjacent land managers on selected issues (Exhibit 7.7).

Exhibit 7.7—Working with adjacent land managers helps mitigate the impacts of development

At Thousand Islands National Park, park officials were invited to comment on plans of surrounding municipalities. Their input led some adjacent townships to include sustainability considerations in their official plans, thus helping to buffer park lands from surrounding development and maintaining connections between park ecosystems and the larger ecosystem. For example, one municipality’s official plan includes a requirement to consult with Parks Canada and other authorities when development or site alteration is proposed adjacent to Crown or conservation lands.

Source: Adapted from Parks Canada documents.