EDMONTON – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and Jasper Environmental Association were in court Tuesday, hoping to stop a concept plan to build overnight commercial accommodations in Jasper National Park.
The two groups, which are being represented by Ecojustice lawyers, say approving commercial tent cabins at Maligne Lake would threaten park protection.
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“The Management Plan for Jasper National Park was put in place to protect and preserve our park’s ecological integrity,” said lawyer Melissa Gorrie. “We are arguing that Parks Canada should not be allowed to break their own rules just to further commercial interests.”
Maligne Tours has hosted a day lodge, boat cruises and other activities in the area for years. But with 2,000 tourists a day in peak season, the company wants to offer visitors more. In the summer of 2013, the company submitted a pre-draft proposal to Parks Canada, pitching 15 tent cabins and a new 66-suite hotel.
Public consultations on the proposal were done the following fall.
Parks Canada said Tuesday no development has been approved.
“The decision under review was a first step in the screening process,” explained Natalie Fay, a Parks Canada spokesperson, in a statement.
“No development has been approved.”
“A more detailed proposal would require an environmental impact assessment as well as public and Aboriginal consultation prior to any final determination by Parks Canada.
“As this matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate for Parks Canada to provide addition comment.”
READ MORE: Could Jasper’s Maligne Lake be in jeopardy?
The two conservation groups fear moving ahead would set a concerning precedent.
“Allowing these tent cabins to be built at Maligne Lake would set a very troubling precedent that could open the floodgates to further inappropriate commercial development in Jasper and elsewhere in our national parks,” said Alison Ronson, executive director of CPAWS’ northern Alberta chapter.
The two groups say, if the Maligne Lake plan goes through, it would put park wildlife at greater risk, particularly the endangered Maligne caribou herd and local grizzly bear populations.
Maligne Lake is the largest glacier-fed lake in the Canadian Rockies.