Management and hypocrisy in national park

Management and hypocrisy in national park Open letter to Sean Sheardown re Kluane Park management plan review: I certainly start out having sympathy for your situation, but it may not be so difficult to understand decreased traditional users of your park

Open letter to Sean Sheardown re Kluane Park management plan review:

I certainly start out having sympathy for your situation, but it may not be so difficult to understand decreased traditional users of your park if you, like I, have observed the following changes in the past 20 years:

• Parks Canada in Yukon has reorganized the upper management and cut Kluane’s budget in half in order to fund the other Yukon National Parks.

• Parks then cut staff, sold or ignored infrastructure and reduced programs. For example, trails are no longer built or maintained, interpretive programs that used to be offered to the public in the campgrounds or centres have been moved into the tour buses and away from average users.

• Parks has allowed hunting in the park, but at the same time reduced any ability to monitor or document it. For example, employee use of aircraft to manage the park is 1/10th what it was in the 1980s.

• Parks has denied or restricted most commercial-access initiatives (including, helicopter, fixed-wing and, yes, even hovercraft proposals). I suppose it makes it easier to manage by assumption if knowing your wardens and trail crews won’t be there.

• At the same time, high-quality wilderness visitor opportunities outside the National Park have doubled, tripled, more likely quadrupled in the last 20 years.

I am motivated now by the Yukon News article with Sheardown on February 3. Media articles can be fickle, and I don’t hold you accountable for this one, but let me point out some apparent hypocrisy that appears to us, the public, based on that interview.

First, let’s make it clear that when you say day use has swollen to 10,500 annually, you are counting every person on the Holland American buses, which stop to pick up Parks Canada staff for a personal (paid-for) presentation as they pass by the park.

There is no longer funding for the excellent interpretive programs that used to be delivered in campgrounds, visitor centres, and communities.

You offer the “possibility” of allowing some motorboats in the park, but don’t you already do that? It should be a fairly easy concession when it is already allowed.

You talk of a rental cabin at Kathleen Lake, but, on the other hand, the owners of the facilities there, that predate the park, have been there for the past 30 years and are still forbidden from making any maintenance or improvements. How will you address that contradiction?

You claim to need something called a “wilderness declaration” to do your job? What’s a “wilderness declaration”?

A national park is (was?) the highest form of protection available on any Canadian landmass É and the United Nations declared you a World Heritage Site, for heaven’s sake. To claim the bureaucracy needs a new catch phrase to live up to their legislated mandate is absurd.

Logic would imply that this is a preliminary manoeuvre to actually release much of the park from park protected status, or a diversionary tactic to make you look good É I’m hoping the latter applies.

And, the “word on the street” is Parks Canada has issued directions to staff to raise visitor numbers by 10 per cent and that number is to be “visible new Asian minoritiesÉ” (My conclusion, based on your performance, suggests these people will be riding Holland American buses en route to Alaska).

Here is your solution:

If you can’t get the funding to properly operate this park, then accept that Parks Canada makes significant management decisions for political reasons rather than logical and scientific ones.

Currently, the public sees this, your staff sees this, your co-governors see this and the resulting hypocrisy only undermines your credibility.

So long as the national parks are used as a tool of social change and managed for political ends, traditional users (i.e. your “core users”) are smart enough to go elsewhere for their genuine wilderness experience. They are not behaving in any but logical response to the situation Parks created.

J. George Balmer

Whitehorse