Clarification requested on the proposed Icefields Trail in Jasper National Park

2021 Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCESD Environmental Petitions Annual Report
Report 7—Environmental Petitions Annual Report

Petition: 417

Issue(s): Biological diversity, Human / environmental health, Other

Petitioner(s): Canadian organization

Petitioner Location(s): Jasper, Alberta

Date Received: 10 May 2018

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition raises concerns over the potential effects of constructing a proposed 107‑km trail in Jasper National Park, which would be separated from the Icefields Parkway by up to 30 metres of vegetation. It argues that the trail project is counter to the principles and priorities of Parks Canada, as outlined in the Parks Canada Agency Act and in Parks Canada’s charter. The petition asserts that the proposed trail is not mentioned in the management plans of Jasper National Park or Banff National Park, or in the Icefields Parkway Strategic Concept. The petition states that construction of the new trail would increase threats to wildlife and critical wildlife habitat, increase human-wildlife conflict, and contribute to negative cumulative effects on sensitive species already affected by traffic in the area.

The petition asserts that the project will adversely affect the critical habitat and populations of six species at risk, including a threatened herd of Southern Mountain Caribou, and other sensitive species such as bears. It cites the Species at Risk Act (SARA)–Compliant Authorization Decision Tool completed for the trail, which states that Parks Canada acknowledges that “residual adverse effect of the activity would contravene a SARA prohibition.” The petition refers to adverse effects of constructing the Banff-Canmore Legacy Trail, such as invasive species, loss of habitat, and human–wildlife conflict, which it warns could be replicated with construction of the Icefields Trail.

The petition raises concerns about exposing inexperienced visitors with inadequate equipment to dangers from wildlife, natural hazards, equipment failure, and variable weather conditions. Questioning Parks Canada’s management plan for addressing visitor safety, the petition asserts that the project is inconsistent with the objectives of the Jasper National Park management plan and State of the Park Report. It concludes that the project will prevent the Park from achieving the ecological integrity goals set out in these plans. The petition asks for details on specific aspects and costs of the proposed trail, and it asks how the adverse effects on wildlife and wilderness, and the human–wildlife conflict, will be mitigated. The petition questions whether Parks Canada is prioritizing visitor experience over ecological integrity and species protection.

The petition raises concerns over the long-term maintenance cost of the project, which it alleges will place a large burden on the maintenance of already strained park infrastructure. It suggests that Parks Canada consider the alternative of widening the existing biking shoulders of the Icefields Parkway rather than constructing the new trail.

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Parks Canada