Having heard loud and clear from environmental groups in June, Parks Canada is now asking the public for its thoughts on a proposed pathway along the Icefields Parkway.
The federal government is starting consultations with the public, First Nations and other stakeholders on its plan to build a 107-kilometre-long paved trail for biking and hiking from Jasper to the Columbia Icefield. There will also be an online component for people to voice their opinion. No details have been provided on either process.
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna will make the final decision based on public feedback and the results of an environmental assessment.
The federal government earmarked $65.9 million in its spring 2016 budget for the Icefields Trail, which is now expected to cost $86.4 million. Parks Canada will cover the $20.5-million difference from its infrastructure investment program. A Parks Canada spokeswoman has said the final route for the trail has not been determined, but the project is planned to be completed by March 2019.
Environmental groups, including Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), are criticizing the plan, saying it would fragment and destroy critical habitat of grizzlies and endangered caribou and displace other wildlife. CPAWS executive director Alison Ronson has said “it’s whittling away wilderness” and the organization is calling on McKenna to cancel the project and reinvest the money into restoring science and conservation programs.
“This proposal is inconsistent with the federal government’s stated commitment to limit development in our national parks, and their legal obligation to put ecological integrity first in all aspects of park management. It is also contrary to Parks Canada’s obligations to protect species at risk in the park.”
Parks Canada says the multi-use trail will run close by and parallel to the Icefields Parkway and will make use of area already disturbed, such as an old highway that runs through part of the area.
It is also considering the longer term possibility of extending the trail from the Columbia Icefield down to Lake Louise.
Article Source: Calgary Herald