Sierra Club: The Planet--1996
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The Planet

Canada Puts Profits Before Parks

Banff National Park, a World Heritage Site, is fast becoming "the construction capital of western Canada."

"Individual profit has frequently taken precedence over park values," said Pat Kariel, a long-time Sierra Club activist. "Entrepreneurs within the park often circumvent public participation and local park decision-making processes to obtain permission for further development.

The Banff Bow Valley Study, set up in 1994 by the Canadian government, was given two years to address concerns about conflicts between environmental preservation and economic growth. So far, three major developments, already under way, were excluded from the study: a housing complex, an extension of the Trans-Canada Highway and expansion of a major ski area.

The study task force is currently developing a vision statement for Banff National Park, and is sending out a draft version for public response. "At present this document amounts to nothing more than idealistic dreams for the future," Kariel said. "It is not known what, if any, means will be suggested for implementing its final contents." Environmentalists argue that panel members have downplayed respected scientific studies relating to wildlife and other natural features. Kariel added that the draft implies that scientific findings might be overridden by business considerations. "We can't have everything," she said, "it's impossible to preserve the ecological integrity of the area while providing all possible facilities."

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