Have your say on the Maligne Valley

Updated October 14, 2014

Sinking ship, Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Maligne Tours, Jasper Environmental Association

The Sinking Ship – Maligne Lake

Parks Canada needs to hear from you.

 

The Maligne Valley in Jasper National Park is home to some spectacular wildlife including grizzly bears, black bears, caribou, moose, harlequin ducks and black swifts.

Parks Canada, pressured by business interests, is considering allowing overnight commercial accommodation in the form of tent cabins at the iconic Maligne Lake. This will not benefit the wildlife. It will mean people moving around at night, increased night traffic on the 48 km road to the lake and will necessitate an amendment to the Jasper National Park Management Plan that could create a bad precedent for other Canadian national parks.

What would you – the Canadian people – like to see in this lovely wilderness valley? This is your national park. It is also part of an UNESCO World Heritage Site that Canada has committed to protect for all people.

Parks Canada has issued a draft Discussion Paper on an Implementation Strategy for the Maligne Valley. http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/jasper/plan/maligne.aspx

If you are in Jasper, Prince George or Edmonton there will be forums this week:

Jasper – Wednesday, Oct 15, Jasper Activity Centre at 6:30 p.m.

Prince George – Wednesday, Oct 15, via video conference, University of Northern B.C. 5-140D Library Building, (first floor), at 5:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)

Edmonton – Thursday, Oct 16, Edmonton Sheraton Hotel at 6:30 p.m.

For other Canadians and world citizens comments may be sent to maligne@pc.gc.ca until October 31, 2014

 

A letter from a former Parks Canada insider

Updated October 3, 2014

Mount Charlton, Mount Unwin, Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Jasoer Environmental Association, Maligne Tours

Our website featured an exchange of letters between Grant Potter and Superintendent Greg Fenton in our September 2013 blog under the title Save Our National Parks. The following letter expressing Grant’s concern regarding the proposed tent cabins and amendment to the Jasper National Park Management Plan was received today by the JEA.

 

Grant Potter

Box 1877

Jasper, AB

T0E 1E0

 

October 3, 2014

 

Greg Fenton

Superintendent, Jasper National Park of Canada

Box 10

Jasper, AB

T0E 1E0

 

Re:  Maligne Tours Proposal

Dear Greg:

Me again.  To say that I was disappointed when I saw Parks Canada’s announcement that it will continue to consider tent cabins at Maligne would be an understatement.

Taking out consideration of the hotel in no way makes the proposal more palatable or less in contravention of the management plan.  And to hear Parks will amend the management plan to allow the release of new land for this new outlying commercial accommodation (OCA) causes me a number of concerns.

  1. Not only will the release of lands statement need to be amended, but also any reference to following the OCA Guidelines (i.e. no new OCAs), and the statement that Maligne Tours will be held to the development limits in their land agreements.
  2. The precedents.  If another entrepreneur wants an OCA at Lake Annette, will it be considered?  Can the existing OCA operators be held to the restrictions in the guidelines?

Management plans are intended to guide decision-making, not be amended to fit decisions made.  They are also there to record decisions made.  There are very few unequivocal statements in the current management plan but the ones relating to this proposal are very clear.  They are the declaration of conscious decisions made prior to any proposal, that were put through public consultation, vetted by Parliament and approved by the Minister.  And Parks is tossing that all out.

I spent many years implementing some of the direction in the management plan and defending the plan and the planning process to those skeptics who felt Parks had hidden agendas or ulterior motives.  I can’t anymore and I take it personally that this decision makes liars out of us all.

Lastly, these developments are all justified by “improving visitor experience” which is a valid goal for Parks Canada, but what happened to “gaining the support of the Canadian public”?  Allowing more development in the park is not helping Parks Canada’s image in the eyes of the general public.

 

In frustration,

 

 

Grant Potter

 

 

Copies:            Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment

John McKay, MP Liberal Environment Critic

Megan Leslie, MP NDP Environment Critic

Jasper Environmental Association

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drawing the line at Maligne Lake

Updated August 31, 2014

Spirit Island, Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Maligne Tours, Jasper Environmental Association, CPAWS

Spirit Island at Maligne Lake

Conservation groups file legal challenge over Jasper National Park development proposal

Parks Canada’s approval of a controversial concept proposal to build overnight commercial accommodations at Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park must be struck down because it violates the park’s management plan, conservation groups said today.

Ecojustice lawyers, representing the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and Jasper Environmental Association (JEA) have filed a Federal Court case in an effort to quash the approval and protect Canada’s national parks from renewed commercial development pressures.

“This concept proposal requires the release of new lands for overnight commercial accommodations, in this case, up to 15 tent cabins. This directly contravenes Jasper National Park’s management plan,” said Fraser Thomson, Ecojustice staff lawyer. “This approval is, in our clients’ view, unlawful and sends a troubling signal about Parks Canada’s commitment to the ecological protection provisions within its own management plan.”

Although the 2010 Management Plan for Jasper National Park of Canada explicitly prohibits new land being released for overnight commercial accommodations outside of the Jasper town site, Parks Canada says it intends to change the plan to allow the commercial tent cabin proposal to go ahead at Maligne Lake.

According to Parks Canada’s own policies, management plans are “commitments to the public from the Minister [of Environment].” They are prepared in consultation with the public and give Canadians a say in how national parks are governed, acting as the mechanism by which ecological integrity is considered during decision-making.

“The policies prohibiting new commercial accommodations outside park town sites were put in place specifically to limit commercial development and protect our parks’ ecological integrity,” said Alison Ronson, executive director of CPAWS’ Northern Alberta chapter.

“It sets a troubling precedent if Parks Canada can change the rules based solely on commercial pressures. It opens the floodgates to more development throughout our Rocky Mountains national parks, and does not reflect the public interest in protecting our parks for future generations.”

The concept proposal would also put park wildlife, in particular the endangered Maligne caribou herd and local grizzly bear populations, at greater risk.

“Overnight accommodations at Maligne Lake would bring increased foot and vehicle traffic to the area at night and in the early mornings when wildlife is most active,” said Jill Seaton, chair of the JEA. “This presents both ecological and safety concerns because Maligne Lake is within the habitat of an endangered caribou herd and is part of an important grizzly bear corridor.”

The Maligne caribou herd has dwindled to just four individuals — one female and three males. Both the caribou and grizzly bear are sensitive to human use and development within their habitat, and rely on undisturbed tracts of land to survive and recover.

 

For more information, please contact
Fraser Thomson, staff lawyer | Ecojustice
403.705.0202
fthomson@ecojustice.ca

Alison Ronson, executive director | CPAWS Northern Alberta
780.424.5128 ext. 309
aronson@cpaws.org

Jill Seaton, chair | Jasper Environmental Association
780.852.4152
jea2@shaw.ca

Precedent-setting decision for Maligne Lake

Updated August 4, 2014

Maligne Tours, Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Jasper Environmental Association

Maligne Tours Day Lodge

Editorial – The Fitzhugh

July 30, 2014

There was a short moment on Friday morning where it appeared the public had succeeded in stopping the development of overnight accommodation at Maligne Lake.

The news was Parks Canada had denied Maligne Tours Ltd.’s controversial proposal for a 66-suite hotel on the shores of the iconic lake. For a split second—before anyone had time to read the fine print—it looked like a victory—a win for public consultation and engagement.

It seemed the loud, adamant voices of environmentalists and park lovers had finally carried over the mountain tops, across the Prairies and all the way to Ottawa—and for a change the Conservative government seemed to listen.

But then came that pesky fine print. Sure, there’s no hotel, but there will still be overnight accommodation in the form of 15 tent cabins.

Now, tent cabins may seem innocuous, but its here where it’s critical to read between the lines.

As was feared with the proposed hotel, in order for the cabins to be built, Parks has to amend its management plan to allow for new outlying commercial accommodations. (Currently the plan prohibits such developments.)

So, although Parks denied the luxury hotel—because it doesn’t fit within the park’s mandate on commercial growth—there is now the potential for future development, not only at Maligne Lake, but in other outlying areas. Heck, give it a few years and there might just be another proposal from Maligne Tours—and its long sought-after hotel might just be built.

If Parks changes its management plan, the precedent will be set, and there will be no turning back.

Without the plan prohibiting new outlying commercial accommodations, Parks has nothing concrete to hold onto or to fall back on when a company comes knocking.

Now, to be fair, the management plan hasn’t been changed yet, and it won’t be changed unless Maligne Tours carries on with its proposal, completing a detailed plan and an environmental assessment and undergoing another round of public consultation.

But, unfortunately, that’s only a small comfort, as the company intends to do just that.

So, despite early appearances, this is far from a win.

It’s hard to predict what the shores of Maligne Lake will look like 20, 10 or even five years from now, but Parks’ decision signifies that, now more than ever before, there’s potential for development and change.

Nicole Veerman

‘Good news’ for Maligne Tours is ‘bad news’ for wildlife

Updated July 26, 2014

Maligne Lake, Jasper Environmental Association, Jasper National Park, MaligneTours hotel proposal

Boathouse at Maligne Lake with Mount Leah and Mount Samson

Article from the Fitzhugh newspaper July 25, 2014

Parks Canada has accepted Maligne Tours Ltd.’s proposal for redevelopment at Maligne Lake, but has said no to the 66-room hotel that was the plan’s flagship development.

On July 25 environmental advocates welcomed the decision to reject the heritage-style accommodation, but many had significant concerns about what was approved, namely the 15 tent cabins the company hopes to build on the hillside below the Maligne Lake Chalet.

“Yes, they’ve turned down the hotel, but we’ve still got these tent cabins, which are quite frankly like a trojan horse,” said Jill Seaton of the Jasper Environmental Association. “I’m afraid [a hotel could] still be there in the future because they’ve got the door open with these tent cabins.”

Although a concern for some, Pat Crowley, the general manager of Maligne Tours Ltd., said that even if the cabins do get built, they will just be one small, “low-key” part of the overall developments and won’t have a major impact on visitation.

Crowley called Parks’ decision “good news” and said the company is looking forward to taking the next steps in the development process in order to implement the 13 proposals that received Parks approval. Included in those approvals is a wildlife-themed maze, earth-caching, storytelling experiences and enhanced boat tours to Spirit Island.

While discussing Parks’ decision, July 25, Supt. Greg Fenton explained that, although the agency couldn’t approve the hotel—on the basis that the potential visitor experience didn’t outweigh the environmental impacts—tent cabins are different.

“[The] potential negative impact of tent cabins is much less,” he said, noting they’re smaller in scale and they aren’t permanent buildings.

Fenton said he believes all of the approved elements of the proposal have the potential to connect Canadians to the park and to enhance visitor experiences, while giving visitors an opportunity to enjoy one of Jasper’s iconic landscapes.

But, despite those possible benefits, the proposal’s opponents aren’t convinced.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), which condemned Maligne Tours’ proposal in its recent State of Canada’s Parks report, has also raised concerns, especially about the possibility of setting a dangerous precedent.

“Essentially, right now, the [park's] management plan prohibits any new land from being released for outlying commercial accommodation, and so they’d have to release land in order for this to happen,” said Danielle Pendlebury, conservation coordinator for the northern Alberta chapter of CPAWS.

“By making an exception, and essentially amending the management plan for this accommodation, Parks Canada is essentially opening the floodgates to pick more proposals for outlying commercial accommodation. That’s our concern, is that it’s setting a precedent that some proposals can go through.”

Pendlebury said CPAWS is also troubled by many of the recreational activities approved in Parks’ decision.

She said many of them “are more appropriate for a theme park than a national park,” and cited a 2010 Parks report that found Canadians are most attracted to national parks because of their pristine nature and wildlife, and less because of their “attractions.”

CPAWS is also worried that developments like the exploratory maze and enhanced boat tours will leave a footprint at the lake, putting its sensitive environment in jeopardy.

The Maligne Valley is home to the park’s smallest caribou herd—tallying only four animals—and is a major corridor for grizzly bears, a threatened species in Alberta. It’s also important harlequin duck habitat. Pendlebury is worried that increased overnight visitation will disrupt these struggling animals.

Crowley said she doesn’t believe the improvements will increase visitation to the lake. Rather, she said, they will provide visitors with a more engaging experience.

“I don’t think [visitation] will change one little bit,” she said. “There are over 200,000 people coming up here every year, and they’re all keen to do something when they get here—or to learn something, or to have their children learn something—so that’s what we’ll be doing.”

And while Maligne Tours is excited at the prospects of further development at the lake, Crowley admitted that without the anticipated revenue from the heritage-style hotel, the company’s proposed experiential activities will have to be somewhat scaled down from what was laid out in the original conceptual proposal.

The heritage-style hotel would have “went a long way to [creating a] sense of place,” but the tent cabins will allow the company to provide most of the cultural and heritage presentations they had originally hoped for.

“We still get to accomplish the same things in terms of visitor engagement—it will just be in a different manner,” she said.

Crowley said Maligne Tours is eager to take the next steps in the process. That will mean utilizing the terms of reference Parks provided them to create a more detailed proposal and conduct an environmental assessment.

Another round of public engagement will follow, to help inform Parks on how to proceed.

In the meantime, Pendlebury said CPAWS will stay vigilant as the process unfolds and will continue to lobby the government to put the brakes on further development at Maligne Lake.

“We’re definitely going to be continuing with our campaign, and continuing with the petition and encouraging people to write letters and their comments to Parks Canada,” she said.

“We don’t see this as a win, we see this as the fact that there is still a huge part of the resort going through.”

Trevor Nichols and Nicole Veerman
reporter@fitzhugh.ca and editor@fitzhugh.ca

Parks Canada rejects Maligne Lake hotel proposal

Updated July 25, 2014

Maligne Lake, Jasper Environmental Association, Jasper National Park, MaligneTours hotel proposal

Maligne Lake with Spirit Island

Parks Canada has turned down the controversial proposal for a hotel at Maligne Lake. However, it has accepted the rest of the 14 elements of Maligne Tours’ concept for further consideration, including tent cabins and additional visitor experience offers.

Maligne Tours’ proposal to construct 15 tent cabins adjacent to their day lodge lease is raising many of the same concerns that applied to the proposed hotel: people in an important wildlife ‘pinch point’ area at night; use of the trails at night and traffic on the narrow 38 km Maligne Road after dark. All of these could pose a threat to the ‘endangered’ woodland caribou herd of just four remaining animals and the sensitive grizzly bear population – a species listed as ‘threatened’ in Alberta.

In addition, to allow the tent cabins Parks Canada would have to amend the Jasper National Park Management Plan that clearly states: “No new land will be released for overnight commercial accommodation outside the community.” This could set a very dangerous precedent for other outlying commercial accommodations to propose their own new developments throughout the national parks. The Jasper National Park Management Plan involved many months of consultations and public input and should not be tampered with to suit the whims of business interests.

 

Spreading the word on Parks Day

Updated July 21, 2014

July 19th was Parks Day and the JEA had a booth on the lawn in front of Jasper’s Information Building.  Five of us manned it and in spite of one brief shower of rain in the middle of the day and a mini-monsoon as we were packing up at the end it was a heartening success.

JEA, CPAWS, Jasper National Park, Maligne Lake, Maligne Tours, caribou, grizzlies

JEA booth featuring the woodland caribou of Maligne Lake

It was a great experience to meet people from all over the world and be able to chat with them about Jasper National Park – its beauty, its endangered species and its problems. Nearly all of them had either been to Maligne Lake or were going in the next day or so. Their main reaction to the news that a high-end resort was being proposed for this world-famous lake was puzzled disbelief ­– “but isn’t this is a national park?”; “may I sign something?”;  “I’m going to write a letter to your Superintendent”;  “doesn’t Canada have laws against this kind of development?”

There were also tour bus drivers who visited the booth and asked for our grizzly bear “Move over nature, business wants more room” postcards to hand out to their passengers.

But the great percentage of visitors were fellow Canadians who had heard of the proposed controversial project through the media and were not shy about voicing strong opinions against it. By the end of the day we had filled 31 pages of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness “Stand Up For Jasper” petition against it.

JEA, CPAWS, Jasper National Park, Maligne Lake, Maligne Tours, caribou, grizzlies

A good opportunity for discussion

What else can we do but fight these unwanted developments in Canada’s last bastions of wilderness that are becoming ever more precious to her people as business interests target them for their own gain? Maybe those interests will finally realize that the more we destroy this wilderness the more likely people are to go somewhere else.

Will Parks Canada listen this time?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day of Protest in the Maligne Valley

Updated June 30, 2014

Under stormy clouds and a cool breeze some Maligne Valley anti-development protesters gathered to voice their opposition to any further tourism expansion at the iconic Maligne Lake.

We set up protest stations along the Maligne Road with posters, picket-signs and our ‘Save Our National Parks’ banner. Some of the posters became abstract art as the rain poured down but the thumbs-up signs, hooting horns and waving hands from the stream of passing cars certainly uplifted any soggy spirits.

After a lunch break at Medicine Lake some of us continued on to Maligne Lake to get the Canadian Parks and Wilderness petitions signed by visitors. One of the main questions  from various nationalities was “Don’t you have laws here in Canada against building things like this proposed development in a national park”.  Well, yes we do but …

 

Maligne Lake Jasper Environmental Association, Development protest

Unloading protest signs

 

Maligne Lake, Jasper Environmental Association. protest against development

Getting the message across

 

Maligne Development Protest

Updated June 24, 2014

Concerned about the proposed Maligne Lake development? The precedent it will set? The wildlife like the grizzly bears and the endangered caribou it will adversely affect?

Join us to form a line of signs along the Maligne Lake Road.

Date: Sunday June 29th

Meeting Place: Maligne Canyon Parking Lot

Time: 10 a.m.

For more information phone JEA’s Dave 780-931-3151

(Bring a sandwich and water and maybe something to sit on)

 

Southern Woodland Caribou, Maligne herd, Maligne Valley, Jasper National Park

Endangered Species: Southern Mountain Woodland Caribou