Last week’s Fitzhugh was hard to read. It was at once hopeful and heartbreaking. I was encouraged to see Parks Canada cracking the door on openness with the public about the serious issues facing this park. Alpine ecosystems in decline, grizzly bears dying at unsustainable rates, cougars killed in Jasper and Parks Canada giving up on mountain caribou. How heartbreaking it is to see the decline of our home, and it begs the question: in the absence of such magnificent wildlife, what does Jasper protect? What is here to which visitors can connect? A highway, a ski hill, a bike path, a town, a golf course, a pipeline?
National Parks were, and continue to be, established to preserve Canada’s natural heritage for current and future generations. We have unfortunately demonstrated time and again, that in the absence of such protection, this heritage is squandered. Because of this, national parks should look, feel, and be managed differently than other places. This is not an easy task, but it is what we have entrusted Parks Canada to do; to make the case for wilderness even when it is inconvenient to do so.
As I read the paper last week, I felt that I was watching Canada’s established national myth of wilderness slip through my fingers. I, like all of us, am culpable in being unwilling at times to support the difficult decisions to protect what I now enjoy. By neglect, I am complicit in deciding that a Jasper without grizzly bears, caribou, cougars, and a healthy alpine still reflects Canada’s natural heritage. Future generations are counting on me, on us, to do what it takes today so that tomorrow, their connection is real, not imagined.