NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Canada's National Parks, We Bearly Knew You

January 20, 2003

The movement in North America to preserve natural areas and wildlife species has embraced the new crisis discipline of conservation biology. Supported by tax dollars and generous government grants, and international environmental interest groups and lobbyists, conservation biology has had a distinct impact on the management of Canada's national parks.

However, researchers say that management decisions regarding Canada's national parks are made in the absence of valid and reliable wildlife biology -- resulting in calls for radical restrictions on human access to parks and recreation areas in the Rocky Mountain area.

An example is the "mission oriented" research of the Calgary based Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (ESGB), the central organization conducting grizzly research in southwestern Alberta. Researchers who examined the use of data and computer models in the management of grizzlies and of protected areas say grizzly bear conservation is being used to justify the expansion of Parks Canada policies to areas far beyond park borders.

  • Researchers found that reports that Alberta's grizzlies are suffering from a "progression of extinction" are misleading, owing to the misuse of common terms such as "extinction," which is inappropriately applied to geographically defined sub-populations of a single species.
  • In fact, say researchers, Canada's national parks are not "islands of extinction" for grizzly bears: the population outside the national parks has nearly doubled since 1988.

Researchers conclude that as long as Canada's national parks are defined as de facto grizzly habitats and human use is automatically considered a disturbance, the push to limit human enjoyment of natural areas is bound to increase. They say a better solution would be to support a management approach that emphasizes individual responsibility, choice and the education of bears and humans alike.

Source: Barry Cooper, Jason Hayes and Sylvia LeRoy, "Science Fiction or Science Fact? The Grizzly Biology behind Parks Canada Management Models," Fraser Institute, Critical Issues Bulletin, December 2002.


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