Outdoors in the Pacific Northwest
National Parks in Canada

The Go Northwest! definition of the Pacific Northwest includes the province of British Columbia, with a small extension into Alberta via Banff and Jasper national parks situated on the Rocky Mountains border, and via Waterton Lakes National Park on the US/Canada border.

National Parks in Canada are administered by Parks Canada, which is part of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Areas appropriate for designation as a national park are "representative natural areas of Canadian significance." Representative is a key definition here, for the park system is aware "there should be at least one national park located in each of Canada's 39 natural regions. To achieve this, 17 additional national parks are needed." In addition to their natural features, many national parks contain areas of cultural and historic significance. By law, national parks are protected for public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment, while being maintained in an unimpaired state for future generations. As well, management of the parks must ensure the protection of their "ecological integrity." That is, "a condition where the structure and function of an ecosystem are unimpaired by human activity and are likely to persist."

British Columbia and southwestern Alberta are situated within the so-called "Western Mountains" geographical unit. Within the Western Mountains are 9 of those 39 identified natural regions mentioned above.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and South Moresby Island/Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve are in the fjordal Pacific Coast Mountains natural region. Glacier and Mount Revelstoke national parks are in the rugged Columbia Mountains natural region. Banff, Yoho, Waterton Lakes, Jasper and Kootenay national parks are in the forested Rocky Mountains natural region.

Since the 1885, with the establishment of Banff National Park, the system has grown to include 38 national parks and national reserves, and 4 marine areas encompassing about 224 466 km2, or about 2% of Canada's land mass.

Historically some parks were created around national transportation corridors, and incorporated communities and recreational facilities such as golf courses and commercial downhill skiing areas. Although these continue to exist, Parks Canada regards such land usage as inappropriate for future parks. No additional lands will be made available for the expansion of golf courses and skiing areas, or for private cottages and camps or seasonal camping areas.

The parks are managed according to a system of zones. The zones are:

  • Zone 1 - Special Preservation
    Contain unique or endangered natural or cultural features. Motorized access is prohibited and this may sometimes extend to any public access.
  • Zone 2 - Wilderness Areas
    Motorized access prohibited. None or rudimentary visitor services and facilities provided, such as trails and campsites.
  • Zone 3 - Natural Environment
    Motorized access allowed with an emphasis on public transit. Minimal services and facilities of a rustic nature provided.
  • Zone 4 - Outdoor Recreation
    Motorized access allowed
  • Zone 5 - Park Services
    Communities in existing national parks which contain a concentration of visitor services, support and administration facilities.

It is the policy of Parks Canada that sport hunting is not permitted in the national parks, although sport fishing may be permitted in designated areas.

Parks Canada
Home page for the national parks section of the official web site.

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