Pressure on parks
Ottawa limits development near national parks

Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Jul 06/98) - Heritage Minister Shelia Copps's plan to limit development in national parks is raising little concern in the NWT.

Copps said last week she is determined to protect and preserve Canada's national parks, promising legislative changes this fall to set legal boundaries for each community located in a national park.

The new laws will establish permanent caps on commercial development and a no-tolerance policy on negative environmental impacts for all future community plans.

"Our national parks are a treasure for all Canadians. Commercial development in our parks is of concern to the people of Canada," said Copps.

Communities in the North are not yet certain how Ottawa's new plans will affect them.

Steve Mapsalak, mayor of Repulse Bay, said it's probably not likely that protection measures will effect the proposed national park at Wager Bay.

"I don't really think that it would really affect us. The only thing that we really wanted to see is having the office in Repulse Bay for the national park of Wager Bay. I don't see anybody putting a lot or doing commercial things in Wager Bay beside the Sila Lodge," said Mapsalak.

The mayor had little else to say about the proposed park, but said he will meet with hamlet councillors to discuss the situation.

In Fort Smith, Mayor Peter Martselos shared Mapsalak's sentiments, predicting his community and a proposed access road through Wood Buffalo National Park would not be affected by the new laws.

"I don't believe it is going to affect our road issue because the road is already there. We don't look for development there. We just look for access to Fort Smith.

"I don't believe it's going to have an effect on us. On the other hand, who knows how they're going to do it?" said Martselos.

The access road, if approved by Parks Canada, would run from Fort Vermillion to Peace Point to connect with an existing road to Fort Smith.

Martselos said there is currently no development in Fort Smith around the park.

There used to be homes on Pine Lake in the park, he said, but many have been abandoned and a prohibition has been put in place against further development.

"People still go there but you can't touch anything in the park. You have to watch what you're doing," he said.

To ensure the long-term ecological integrity of national parks, a one-year development moratorium will be placed on all commercial accommodation facilities outside park communities, said Copps.

Copps wants

a panel be set up within a year to come up with principles to guide the nature, scale and rate of future development.