Environmentalists applaud Canadian parks plan
TORONTO - Canadian environmentalists applauded Prime Minister Jean Chretien\'s promise to boost the size of Canada\'s national park system by 50 percent, calling it a continuation of a legacy of preservation.
\"This may be the most significant announcement for Canadian wilderness and wildlife in decades,\" Stephen Hazell, director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said this week.
Chretien announced the initiative at the United Nations Earth summit in Johannesburg on Monday, saying he would create 10 new national parks and five marine conservation areas, building on a parks system he said has become a source of national pride.
\"I believe we have a responsibility to preserve the gorgeous areas of Canada for future generations,\" he told reporters.
The announcement was twinned with Chretien\'s pledge to ratify the Kyoto Protocol by year-end, giving conservationists two reasons to cheer.
Canada\'s current 39 national parks cover an area close to 225,000 square kilometres (87,000 square miles) - almost the size of Britain. The proposed additional parkland should increase the total by more than 100,000 square kilometres.
Hazell cautioned, however, that funding has yet to be set aside for the project.
\"CPAWS will be watching the federal budget process very carefully over the coming few month to ensure that the finance minister, John Manley, delivers on the prime minister\'s commitments.\"
Environmentalists said the announcement continued the prime minister\'s legacy of parkland preservation. As minister of Indian and northern affairs in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Chretien established 10 new parks.
\"This has been an ongoing commitment by the PM. It has his thumbprints on it,\" said Monte Hummel, president of the World Wildlife Fund Canada.
Chretien initially made the promise to complete the national park system years ago while running for the Liberal Party leadership.
\"Over the last two or three years, (the government) has fallen behind on actually delivering on these parks, so we were very pleased to see this brought to life again,\" Hummel said.
While environmentalists applauded the 10 new land-based parks, they said the additional five marine conservation areas were an important step for what some say is an ignored conservation priority.
\"We\'re just bringing the curtain up on the marine component,\" said Hummel.
The latest round of park creation will kick off in three regions - on British Columbia\'s Gulf Islands on the Pacific coast, the northern shore of Lake Superior, and the tundra of Wager Bay in the Arctic territory of Nunavut.
Story by Cameron French
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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