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Report praises Manitoba for parks policies

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Canada’s parks watchdog released its annual report card today, praising Manitoba for expanding and protecting pristine places here and warning of the dangers to parks in other jurisdictions.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) issued its fifth annual report today, saying progress on creating new parks and protecting existing ones has been uneven across the country over the past 12 months.

The report lauded the Manitoba government for its new parks strategy announced in April as part of its "Green Plan". The strategy commits the province to strengthening protection for many of Manitoba’s provincial parks, creating or expanding up to 10 parks, and honours the parks watchdog’s request to make "maintaining ecosystem health" the main principle of parks, the report said. The province’s new strategy commits to work with aboriginal communities and stakeholders to consider expanding Little Limestone Lake and Fisher Bay provincial parks - two of the group’s top conservation priorities in Manitoba.

"Unfortunately though, danger signs are still flashing for Canada’s parks in too many areas," the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society report said. In Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park, a proposal to drill and "frack" for oil within metres of the park boundary presents a serious risk to the park’s ecosystems, its UNESCO World Heritage status and the local tourism that relies on it.

Last year’s report highlighted how the 2012 federal budget cuts of about $30 million per year were decreasing Parks Canada’s science capacity and shortening operating seasons for national parks, including Riding Mountain in Manitoba. Local citizens mounted a campaign called "Occupy Winter" to draw attention to the park experiences being lost by turning national parks into seasonal destinations.

"These budget cuts and the associated loss of ecosystem science capacity and visitor services is short-sighted given the enormous benefit our national parks bring to all Canadians," said the report released in the run up to Canada Parks Day this Saturday.

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