Vol. 151, No. 21 — October 18, 2017
SOR/2017-218 October 5, 2017
CANADA NATIONAL PARKS ACT
Regulations Amending the National Parks of Canada Wilderness Area Declaration Regulations
P.C. 2017-1228 October 5, 2017
Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to subsection 14(1) of the Canada National Parks Act (see footnote a), makes the annexed Regulations Amending the National Parks of Canada Wilderness Area Declaration Regulations.
Regulations Amending the National Parks of Canada Wilderness Area Declaration Regulations
1 The portion of item 2 of the schedule to the National Parks of Canada Wilderness Area Declaration Regulations (see footnote 1) in column 2 is replaced by the following:
Coming into Force
2 These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
Amendments to the National Parks of Canada Wilderness Area Declaration Regulations (Regulations) are required to align with changes to Schedule 5 to the Canada National Parks Act (Act) that reconfigured the leasehold boundary of the Marmot Basin Ski Area (the Ski Area) by permanently removing the Whistlers Creek area and surrounding up-slopes from the Ski Area leasehold. These amendments are required to protect undeveloped terrain that is important habitat for many wildlife species, including the Woodland Caribou, a threatened species under the Species at Risk Act. Removal of the Whistlers Creek area from the Ski Area leasehold boundary will prevent any commercial development that could affect the wilderness character and ecological integrity of the creek and upland slopes.
The Act dedicates national parks to the people of Canada for their benefit, education and enjoyment, and directs that national parks be maintained and used so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.
When an area of a national park is declared a wilderness area by regulation, any activity that is likely to impair its wilderness character may not be authorized. The Act restricts activities within declared wilderness areas to those related to park administration; public safety; the provision of basic user facilities, including trails and rudimentary campsites; traditional renewable resource harvesting activities authorized in accordance with the Act; and access by aircraft to remote declared wilderness areas where there is no other means of access. The Regulations first came into force in 2000 to declare wilderness areas within Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks of Canada. These were amended in 2009 to add four new declared wilderness areas in Waterton Lakes, Fundy and Vuntut National Parks of Canada and in Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada, bringing the total number of declared wilderness areas to eight.
The declared wilderness areas currently listed in the Schedule to the Regulations for Jasper National Park of Canada are extensive areas that are good representations of the Rocky Mountains Natural Region where maintenance of ecosystems with minimal interference is the key consideration. The declared wilderness area boundaries around the Marmot Basin area were established based on the Ski Area boundary listed in Schedule 5 to the Act. The Ski Area boundary was established in 1986 based on a review of potential ski terrain suitable at that time and on existing environmental information. Since then, Parks Canada’s understanding of the ecological values, ecosystems and the relationship to human activities has significantly increased through both park specific research and broader general research applicable to the park (i.e. the Southern Mountain population of Woodland Caribou has been listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act since 2002).
Furthermore, public concerns about development and use of ski areas in the mountain national parks and the related impact on ecological integrity led to the completion of the Ski Area Management Guidelines in 2000, their update in 2006, and corresponding direction in individual park management plans. Parks Canada’s primary goal for the management of ski areas, as outlined in the Ski Area Management Guidelines, is to achieve long-term land use certainty that
- ensures ecological integrity will be maintained or restored;
- contributes to facilitating memorable national park visitor experiences and educational opportunities; and
- provides ski area operators with clear parameters for business planning in support of an economically healthy operation.
In 2008, the Marmot Basin Ski Area Site Guidelines for Development and Use (the Site Guidelines) were approved. They are the first site guidelines to be negotiated with a ski operator within a national park and completed with public consultations. The Site Guidelines identify permanent caps for the amount of development, potential initiatives that would enhance the skiing experience in Marmot Basin along with parameters and conditions to ensure ecological health of the park. The Site Guidelines propose that the Ski Area leasehold be reconfigured. This reconfiguration involved making changes to the Ski Area boundary listed in Schedule 5 to the Act. The reconfiguration of the leasehold to better protect the Southern Mountain population of Woodland Caribou is an important conservation initiative for a species at risk. The Site Guidelines, by capping growth, also represent a major contribution towards the protection of the park’s ecological integrity over the long term.
The amendments to the Regulations are consistent with the Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act which received royal assent on June 19, 2013, and came into force on December 1, 2013. The amendment to Schedule 5 to the Act reconfigured the Ski Area boundary and removed the Whistlers Creek area (totalling over 100 hectares) from the Ski Area boundary. These regulatory amendments complete the Agency’s intent to designate the Whistlers Creek area as declared wilderness area.
Reconfiguring the Ski Area boundary in Schedule 5 to the Act and amending the Regulations provide enhanced protection to sensitive wildlife species while supporting the continued operation of the Ski Area.
These amendments to the Regulations take into account the Ski Area boundary reconfiguration and are required to achieve related management objectives (e.g. participating in or leading recovery planning for species at risk such as the Woodland Caribou or applying the Site Guidelines) under the Jasper National Park of Canada Management Plan, which was tabled in both houses of Parliament in June 2010.
The amendments to the Regulations also give the communities neighbouring the national park and the people of Canada a high degree of assurance that development and use inconsistent with the wilderness character of ecologically sensitive lands will not occur. The Regulations provide enhanced protection of valued ecosystem components, including habitat important to certain species, in particular the Southern Mountain population of Woodland Caribou, a species at risk.
The Regulations Amending the National Parks of Canada Wilderness Area Declaration Regulations are made pursuant to subsection 14(1) of the Act. They add the Whistlers Creek area to the existing declared wilderness area listed in the Schedule to the Regulations in Jasper National Park of Canada, thereby enhancing the protection of this ecologically important area. In exchange, a smaller area contiguous to the Ski Area below the Rock Gardens area has been removed from the existing declared wilderness area listed in the Schedule to the Regulations and will be made available to the Ski Area operator to develop beginner ski terrain and cross-country ski trails.
These amendments to the Regulations make an adjustment in the declared wilderness areas adjacent to the Ski Area boundary in Jasper National Park of Canada. They add to the Schedule to the Regulations the lands removed from the Ski Area boundary in the Whistlers Creek area and surrounding up-slopes (totalling over 100 hectares), to better protect valuable food sources and movement routes for the Southern Mountain population of Woodland Caribou. This area contains a mineral lick for mountain goat and is used by other sensitive species including grizzly bear, wolverine and lynx. This regulatory initiative removes a smaller parcel below the Rock Gardens area (totalling 60 hectares) which may be made available to the Ski Area and may be managed through a Parks Canada’s licence of occupation.
The lands removed from the Schedule to the Regulations, known as the Rock Gardens area, are considered less ecologically sensitive than the Whistlers Creek area. The Southern Mountain population of Woodland Caribou and mountain goat do not use this area. Limited development and use in the Rock Gardens area are provided for in the Site Guidelines and have been assessed in the strategic environmental assessment for the Site Guidelines. The exchange of lands results in an important net improvement to the ecological integrity of the national park.
The “One-for-One” Rule does not apply to this proposal, as there is no change in administrative costs to business.
Small business lens
The small business lens does not apply to this proposal, as there are no costs to small business.
A Notice of Intent was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on October 26, 2013, which was followed by a 30-day comment period. No comments have been received to date.
The public and stakeholders were provided the opportunity to comment on policy direction related to the development and use of the Ski Area in 2007 during the development of the Site Guidelines and the associated draft strategic environmental assessment. Further consultations were undertaken during a major review of the Jasper National Park of Canada Management Plan in 2009. The leasehold reconfiguration and potential development in the Rock Gardens area were both included in these public reviews.
Public views of the draft Site Guidelines were mixed. Some stakeholders stated that the removal of the Whistlers Creek area was not a substantial environmental gain. The Site Guidelines were adjusted to clarify the rationale as to why the removal of the Whistlers Creek area is considered a substantial environmental gain.
There was some concern about the process related to the amendment to Schedule 5 to the Act (and by extension the amendments to the Regulations) in order to allow potential development of the Rock Gardens area. The Site Guidelines were adjusted to clearly indicate that appropriate approvals for the leasehold adjustments, including legislative changes (where necessary) were required before permits for some projects could be issued.
Subsequent to the approval of the Site Guidelines in February 2008, two environmental petitions were submitted by three environmental groups challenging some of the decisions in the Site Guidelines, in particular the lease reconfiguration, concepts related to substantial environmental gain and adjustments to the Act to support development in the Rock Gardens area. The responses to the petitions outlined that the Site Guidelines are consistent with Parks Canada’s legislation, policies and guidelines and the park management plan. The Site Guidelines are also a component of an overall comprehensive and integrated approach to managing the Ski Area in a manner that complements broader park initiatives to protect ecological integrity while supporting quality visitor experiences and the needs of the tourism industry.
Comments received during the public consultation process on the Jasper National Park of Canada Management Plan concerning the Ski Area were balanced. Some respondents suggested that the Government should do more to ensure the long-term economic sustainability of ski areas, while others were opposed to new development and summer use.
Finally, a long-range plan and the associated environmental assessment for Marmot Basin were the subject of a public consultation program in 2014, with very little public participation, media coverage or concerns. On March 16, 2016, Jasper National Park held its annual public forum and the public raised no questions or concerns about Marmot Basin planning and development.
The amendments to the Regulations are housekeeping amendments to formalize decisions made with the support of consultations on the Site Guidelines. The amendments to the Ski Area boundary are consistent with the approved Site Guidelines, respect the operators’ needs, and support Parks Canada’s responsibility to ensure the ecological health of the park and to provide quality visitor experiences.
The Whistlers Creek area, removed from the Ski Area boundary and added to the Schedule to the Regulations, will benefit from a higher degree of protection to ensure a strict prohibition of activities that would otherwise impair the area’s wilderness character and ecological values. This area is currently in a natural state. Removing the lands from the Ski Area boundary and adding them to the Schedule to the Regulations have the following additional benefits:
- the Ski Area boundary reduction is a positive contribution to Parks Canada’s participation in current and future broad scale ecosystem management initiatives to better protect Woodland Caribou habitat, that are linked through implementation of the park management plan, federal-provincial collaborations, and the development and implementation of species at risk recovery strategies;
- the Ski Area boundary reduction is a positive contribution to Parks Canada’s participation in current and future broad scale ecosystem management initiatives to better protect Woodland Caribou habitat, which are linked through implementation of the park management plan, federal-provincial collaborations, and the development and implementation of species at risk recovery strategies;
- the Ski Area boundary reduction and designation of the lands as declared wilderness area protect broad ecological values for multiple species associated with the Whistlers Creek area by ensuring quality habitat for other valued and sensitive species including grizzly bear, wolverine, and lynx;
- Jasper along with Banff, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks of Canada and three adjacent provincial parks in British Columbia make up the UNESCO Rocky Mountain World Heritage Site reflecting the global community’s recognition of their outstanding universal value. The amendments to the Schedule to the Regulations for Jasper National Park of Canada provide additional protection of the Rocky Mountains Natural Region. Refining the boundaries to include the sensitive habitat in the Whistlers Creek area strengthens the protection of this area, reflecting Parks Canada’s commitment to the world heritage site’s values; and
- completing the Ski Area boundary reduction and amendments to the Regulations assist the Ski Area to proceed with projects in a long-range plan to support business operations and improvements for visitors.
The strategic environmental assessment concluded that “the proposed lease reduction will provide greater certainty that the Whistlers Creek area will remain undeveloped. As such, it will provide greater long-term protection of ecological integrity in the area than would be the case if the area remained in the lease, including enhanced protection of valuable caribou habitat and enhanced protection of an important goat mineral lick. This improved level of protection is considered a substantial environmental gain that will contribute meaningfully to Parks Canada’s objective of maintaining or improving ecological integrity in Jasper National Park. The environmental gains associated with Whistlers Creek also extend to other wildlife using the area including grizzly bear, wolverine, lynx and mountain goat”.
The lands removed from the Schedule to the Regulations are less sensitive and provide the Ski Area opportunities to increase the amount of beginner ski terrain and offer cross-country skiing. The scope and amount of the benefits and costs cannot be determined until the Ski Area advances specific development proposals.
The strategic environmental assessment concluded that the type and level of development that is being considered in the Rock Gardens area would have a limited impact on the environment that could be mitigated by careful design.
Declared wilderness areas are identified by referencing administrative map plan numbers deposited in the archives of Natural Resources Canada. The administrative map plans may be consulted at the National Office of the Parks Canada Agency in Gatineau, Quebec, and at the office of the superintendent of Jasper National Park of Canada. There are no costs to users or to industry. The costs for the Government of Canada to amend the Regulations in Jasper National Park of Canada amount to less than $50,000 in total. This represents the costs associated with the production of the administrative map plan, the undertaking of public consultations and the publication in the Canada Gazette. Costs related to compliance and law enforcement are absorbed in the operational budget of the national park.
Implementation, enforcement and service standards
With the coming into force of the provisions pertaining to Schedule 5 on December 1, 2013, and following coming into force of this regulatory initiative, Parks Canada will negotiate a replacement lease and new licences of occupation for the reconfigured Ski Area.
In addition to compliance monitored through the regular enforcement program, voluntary compliance is encouraged by informing visitors of any restrictions associated with activities or uses of public lands in declared wilderness areas.
Any activity or use likely to impair the wilderness character of the declared wilderness area is prohibited. Authorized activities or uses within a declared wilderness area are subject to any conditions deemed necessary by the Minister and must be related to
- (a) park administration;
- (b) public safety;
- (c) the provision of basic user facilities including trails and rudimentary campsites;
- (d) the carrying on of traditional renewable resource harvesting activities authorized pursuant to the Act or any other Act of Parliament; or
- (e) access by air to remote declared wilderness areas where there is no other means of access to those areas.
Any prohibited or unauthorized activity or use of public lands within a declared wilderness area will constitute an offence under the Act and its regulations. In the event of non-compliance with the Act or regulations, a charge could be laid pursuant to subsection 24(2) of the Act for which a fine of up to $25,000 on summary conviction, and up to $100,000 on indictment, could be imposed.
Policy, Legislative and Cabinet Affairs
Parks Canada Agency
30 Victoria Street, 4th Floor, Office #453 (PC-04-B)