Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Parks watchdog gives grades

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CANADA'S parks watchdog released its annual report card Monday, praising Manitoba for expanding and protecting pristine places here and warning of the dangers to parks in other jurisdictions.

In its fifth annual report, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said progress on creating new parks and protecting existing ones has been uneven across the country during the past 12 months.

It 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 and creating or expanding up to 10 parks. It also honours the watchdog's request to make "maintaining ecosystem health" the main principle of parks, the report said.

"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 park boundaries presents a serious risk to the park's ecosystems, its UNESCO World Heritage status and the related tourism.

Last year's parks 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.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 16, 2013 B3

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