Reverse decision to re-open airstrips in Banff, Jasper national parks, CPAWS tells Baird

    OTTAWA, March 15 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
(CPAWS) is calling on Environment Minister John Baird to immediately reverse
the decision announced yesterday to "recommission" airstrips in two of
Canada's most famous national parks.
    "The closure of the Banff airstrip was one of the first and most
important responses of the federal government to the 1997 Bow Valley study
which showed Banff is overdeveloped and that sensitive wildlife habitat in the
area of the airstrip is deeply compromised. To see the decision to close this
environmentally damaging and inappropriate facility reversed is truly
shocking" says Harvey Locke, Senior Conservation Advisor to CPAWS.
    "Neither of these airstrips is needed. Both areas are well served by
highways and rail and have nearby airports. This is about enabling a
privileged few to recreate in their personal aircraft in protected areas."
adds Locke. "It is especially wrong to open the Jasper airstrip to
recreational use."
    Closing the airstrips was first identified as a priority in the 1987 park
management plans for Banff and Jasper, which were tabled in Parliament. The
airstrips were legally closed in 1997 after the Banff Bow Valley Study
highlighted the intense threats posed by commercial development and
infrastructure, including the airstrips, to the ecological health of the
mountain parks. The next step to be taken was to decommission the airstrips.
    There was no advance warning of the surprise decision that was issued
before a week of holidays to CPAWS and other conservation groups that have
worked for decades to protect the famous parks. The policy reversal also flies
in the face of an extensive Parks Canada study which called for the anomalous
airstrips to be decommissioned.
    "The ecology and visitor experiences of two of the world's greatest
national parks which are dedicated to the Canadian public are being
compromised for the narrow interests of some private pilots. We will make
every effort to have this decision reversed and look to all legal means to
achieve it," said Locke.

For further information:

For further information: Harvey Locke, (647) 225-7438

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