Parks Beyond Borders: Oz Names New Limmen National Park, Accidents Claim Black Bears in Canadian Rockies, NSW Slashes Park Budgets
Oz Names Massive New Limmen National Park
Australia's Northern Territories Chief Minister Paul Henderson went to a remote location in the Gulf of Carpentaria last week to declare a new national park. Taken together, the million-hectares of Limmen National Park, a marine park in Limmen Bight, and Maria Island, constitute one of the country’s largest national parks.
Environmentalists and Aboriginal people applauded the move, but some skeptics said the designation taking place less than six weeks before an election called the independence of the decision into question.
An article in Tracker.org by Xavier La Canna said, “Limmen is located just below Arnhem Land ... and is home to waterways, beaches, threatened animal species and rock art sites. Majestic sandstone formations known as Lost Cities" are expected to be a tourist drawcard for the Northern Territories. The capital Darwin was named one of Lonely Planet's Top 10 cities to visit in 2012.
Marine preservation interests also supported the new park but many in the pro-park camp are cautious about the potential impact of mining. Reportedly the park’s size was reduced to exclude commercially viable mining deposits and plans to extract iron ore and other resources.
But Northern Territories Environment Minister Karl Hampton kept up the positive perspective pledging that no sacred sites would be harmed.
“It (Limmen) has been one of the sleeping giants of the Northern Territory in terms of economic and environmental issues,” Mr Hampton said. “That sleeping giant is well awake, and we have got a world class national park, a marine park as well,” he said.
The potential park been discussed for more than twenty years. A story on ABC quoted chief regional ranger Eddie Webber saying “it's been 25 years in the making, but the declaration will be well worth the effort. I've been involved for about 20 [years] in negotiations with local people and I've had nothing but support and encouragement from the communities around."
Accidents Claim Black Bears in Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks
A least one Canadian media outlet said “speed maniacs” were responsible for the deaths of seven black bears on roads in the Rocky Mountains parks of Banff, Kootenay and Yoho national parks. One of those was killed on railroad tracks. No Grizzlies have been killed.
"’We've lost seven black bears over the last short period of time, essentially through this season,’" says Rick Kubian with Parks Canada. "And we're really asking folks to be aware of wildlife as they travel through the national parks,’" said the site Global Edmonton.
Parks Canada said, with “record-breaking snowfall in the winter but a late spring melt, there are still plenty of wolves and black bears in valley bottoms in search of food.” Some coverage has suggested that people have encouraged proximity by feeding wildlife, which Parks Canada reminds visitors is strictly against the law.
Biggest problem is no doubt speeding and officials are reiterating warnings that people slow down. “Speed is believed to have played a major role in these collisions, but all the black bear strikes have occurred along stretches of road not twinned or fenced,” said Omar McDadi, a Parks Canada spokesman.
The Calgary Herald quoted him, saying, “By following speed limits, visitors can prolong the life of animals by many years and actually even improve human safety, too, by minimizing collisions.” But conservationists say more needs to be done, including tougher enforcement and the use of photo radar. “We need strict enforcement for these speeders and yahoos, not just educate them and see what happens,” said Jim Pissot, executive director of WildCanada Conservation Alliance. “Speed enforcement is a public safety issue and a wildlife conservation issue.”
According to a Parks Canada report, 477 confirmed black bear deaths were recorded over a 20-year period from 1990 to 2009 in Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho, Waterton Lakes and Mount Revelstoke-Glacier national parks. Of those, 449 were human-caused, including 125 black bears killed on the railway and 238 killed on the roads.
Rick Kubian, Resource Conservation Manager in Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay. said, “We ask that visitors please slow down, observe speed limits and be extra vigilant on the roads at dawn and dusk when animals are most active.”
Parks Canada "strongly encourages the public to report wildlife sightings and suspicious behaviour – such as wildlife feeding or hazardous driving – by calling 1 888-WARDENS."
New South Wales to Slash Parks Jobs
While the Northern Territories get a new national park, in southeastern Australia, the government of New South Wales has “put a scythe through its environment office” with the elimination of 350 jobs and many expecting to come from national parks.
One media outlet quoted Environment Minister Robyn Parker saying that the "sweeping reforms" at the “Office of Environment and Heritage would save about $100 million over the next four years.” A statement issued by Parker said, “Changes will include reducing senior area managers within the National Parks and Wildlife Service from 66 to 50."
Opposition was voiced immediately and the move was widely covered around the country.
Opposition environment spokesman Luke Foley said, “There was already a shortage of inspectors to safeguard against illegal logging activity. These cuts will have a severe and dramatic impact," he said.
In an article in the Harden-Murrumburrah Express News by Ben Cubby and Josephine Tovey, Foley also said “the cuts were particularly concerning in light of the government's recent decision to allow amateur hunters into some national parks to shoot feral animals.” This column has covered that topic in two separate articles (see the first and second).
Government documents say cuts are expected also in “harvesting programs, reducing wilderness and wild river assessments, deregulating wildlife licensing where appropriate, scaling back soil and salinity research and ‘reducing effort in our biodiversity programs.’”
Parker noted that these cuts come on top of 80 job cuts during 2011-’12.