Under the Alberta Provincial Parks Act, the Minister of Environment and Parks (“the Minister”) is responsible for managing Provincial Parks for five purposes:
- To preserve Alberta’s natural heritage (The Act defines ‘natural heritage’ as “natural landscapes and features and the ecosystems, ecological processes and biological diversity and the related cultural attributes that those landscapes and features include.”);
- To conserve and manage plants and wildlife;
- To protect landscapes and natural objects of interest or importance;
- To support outdoor recreation, education, and nature appreciation; and
- To ensure Provincial Parks are protected for present and future generations.
Cabinet can create a Provincial Park, and increase or decrease a park’s area, by Order in Council.
The Minister can purchase or acquire land to create or increase the size of a Provincial Park, with Cabinet’s approval.
A Provincial Park can additionally be classified as a Wildland Provincial Park. Alberta Parks clarifies that Provincial Parks have a “greater range of facilities” and greater road access than Wildland Provincial Parks.
By Order in Council, Cabinet can create a Recreation Area to support outdoor recreation opportunities for present and future generations. The Minister is responsible for managing Recreation Areas. Cabinet can increase or decrease the size of a Recreation Area by order. With Cabinet’s permission, the Minister can purchase or acquire land to create or increase a Recreation Area’s size.
Section 7 Designations
By regulation, the Minister can protect an area under section 7 of the Provincial Parks Act, which allows the government to protect lands while deciding whether the lands will be used to create or expand a Provincial Park or Recreation Area. In this instance, the land is temporarily protected so that it is not negatively impacted or harmed while long-term decisions are being made.
While the Provincial Parks Act does not expressly support shared management or decision-making authority, the Government of Alberta collaborated with Indigenous communities to establish Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park.
Originally proposed by the Mikisew Cree First Nation, the Park supports traditional uses and cultural wellbeing and protects cultural keystone species, including the Ronald Lake bison herd. A cooperative management approach has yet to be developed, but Alberta Parks and interested Indigenous communities and organizations are currently engaged in a collaborative planning process (at the time of publication).
Alberta Parks notes that objectives of this approach could include:
- Maintaining and supporting traditional use activities;
- Protecting and preserving traditional use sites, cultural areas, and historic resources;
- Exploring economic and employment opportunities; and
- Potential Indigenous Guardian Program opportunities.