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Wild Animal Law of Canada

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Parks-Related Acts (Alberta)

(current at 01 August 2016)

Note Re Application of the Provincial Parks Act ('PPA') and the Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act ('WAERNAHRA')

Like most provincial park statutes across the country, the Provincial Parks Act ('PPA') allows for the establishment of different levels of protected lands, for the purposes of wildlife and habitat conservation, and of human recreation. The Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act ('WAERNAHRA') is a parks-related Act, differing primarily in the higher degree of the various protections and prohibitions that apply to it's designated lands. WAERNAHRA is addressed in s.4 of this module, the balance of the module being devoted to the Provincial Parks Act.

PPA and WAERNAHRA law applies only to those lands designated under them, although PPA law may be expressly extended by the Minister, in whole or part, to other lands which are already "under the Minister's management" [PPA 7]. These other lands, and the laws that apply to them, are listed here: Provincial Parks (Section 7 Declaration) Regulation.

This law bears on the wildlife issues of:
  • HABITAT
  • HUNTING
  • PROTECTION
  • IMPORT, EXPORT AND RELOCATION
The full current text of this legislation (including regulations) may be viewed at the Alberta statute website.

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Table of Contents
1. Overview of Provincial Parks Act
(a) General
(b) Occupation, Use and Activities Within Parks Lands
2. General and Wildlife-Related Prohibitions and Protections in the Provincial Parks Act
3. Enforcement of the Provincial Parks Act
4. Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act
(a) Overview
(b) Prohibitions and Protections
(c) Enforcement
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1. Overview of Provincial Parks Act

(a) General

The Provincial Parks Act authorizes the provincial Cabinet to establish either provincial parks or recreation areas (collectively, "park lands") on Crown-owned or leased land, to be managed by the Minister of Culture and Tourism [PPA 4.1,6]. Another category of park land created is wildland parks [PPA 1(n)].

The purposes of provincial parks are [PPA 3]:
  • to preserve Alberta’s natural heritage;

  • "for the conservation and management of flora and fauna";

  • "for the preservation of specified areas, landscapes and natural features and objects in them that are of geological, cultural, historical, archeological, anthropological, paleontological, ethnological, ecological or other scientific interest or importance";

  • "to facilitate their use and enjoyment for outdoor recreation, education and the appreciation and experiencing of Alberta’s natural heritage"; and

  • "to ensure their lasting protection for the benefit of present and future generations".
The purpose of recreation areas is to "to facilitate their use and enjoyment for outdoor recreation by present and future generations" [PPA 4].

Current Alberta provincial parks and recreations areas (includes designated lands under the WAERNAHRA, see s.4 below) are linked here:

Current Alberta Parks System

(b) Occupation, Use and Activities Within Parks Lands

The PPA speaks in terms of 'dispositions', which are private title interests in park lands, and 'permissions', which are any written "form of permission, including a permit, licence, approval, authorization, consent" authorizing specific activities in park lands [PPA 1(1,5)]. 'Dispositions' are granted by the province for such things as mineral extraction, cultivation, haying, grazing, summer cabins, pipelines and sand and gravel extraction [Provincial Parks (Dispositions) Regulation ('PPD Regs')], or may be pre-existing when the land is acquired for use as park land.

As is elaborated below in this module, practically all activities, both commercial and recreational, within park lands must have legal authorization emanating either from a disposition or a permission (hereafter, an "authorization") [PPG Regs 45].


2. General and Wildlife-Related Prohibitions and Protections in the Provincial Parks Act

The following general and wildlife-related protections and prohibitions apply to PPA park lands (parks and recreation areas), all of which are subject to exceptions where appropriate authorization (disposition or permission) is held:
  • any occupier of park lands is "is a trespasser, and any improvement, structure or work effected by or under the auspices of that person becomes the property of the Crown" [PPA 9];

  • building on park lands, including building residences, is prohibited [PPA 9.1,11];

  • it is prohibited to "collect, destroy, damage, remove or move any plant life or animal life (including bird, reptile or amphibian eggs)" in, from or into park land [PPA 9.2(1)(a)];

  • it is prohibited to "excavate, remove or move an object of geological, cultural, historical, archeological, anthropological, paleontological, ethnological, ecological or other scientific interest or importance" in, from or into park land [PPA 9.2(1)(b)];"

  • it is prohibited to "introduce any plant, animal or insect species that has the potential to alter the ecological integrity" in, from or into park land [PPA 9.2(1)(c)];

  • "(a) person shall not destroy or damage any land in a park or recreation area" [PPA 10];

  • "(a) person shall not remove or move timber, soil, sand, rock or other natural materials in or from a park or recreation area" [PPA 10.1];

  • it is prohibited to "deface, injure or destroy any object in a provincial park or recreation area, whether created by natural means or otherwise" [Provincial Park (General) Regulation 10 ('PPG Regs')];

  • it is prohibited to feed wildlife in park lands [PPG Regs 11.3];

  • regarding domestic animals, it is prohibited to "bring the animal into a provincial park or recreation area or allow the animal to enter or remain in a provincial park or recreation area unless it is in a cage or is restrained by a leash, chain or other device that is not greater than 2 metres long" [PPG Regs 15]. Domestic animals running at large may be captured and impounded, and in some circumstances destroyed [PPG Regs 18];

  • fires must only be made in designated fireplace and fire pits [PPG Regs 20], and must at all times be attended and not allowed to spread [PPG Regs 23];

  • use of motor vehicles and off-road vehicles in park lands is restricted [PPG Reg 26-27];

  • it is prohibited to possess or discharge a firearm within park lands [PPG Regs 46];

  • conducting a business in park lands is prohibited [PPG Regs 47];

  • possession and discharge of firearms within parks are subject to permit and license requirements, and limited to open seasons in park-abutting lands [Provincial Parks (General) Regulation (PPG Regs) 46]. The issue of hunting as such in provincial parks does not appear to be addressed in the legislation other than inferentially through these provisions.
Note that any PPA-issued permit may be administratively-revoked (ie. there is no requirement of being convicted of an offence) on contravention of the PPA, or any terms of the permit [PPA 49].


3. Enforcement of the Provincial Parks Act

On-the-ground enforcement of the PPA and related legislation is conducted by appointed conservation officers ('CA's) [PPA 1(1)]. Without limiting the generality of their authority to perform their duties, CAs have authority to [PPA 17]:
  • enter and inspect any land within park land,

  • enter and inspect any "place, building, tent or other structure in a park" without warrant in exigent circumstances where they have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that they contain evidence of a contravention [PPA 18] (warrants are required for dwelling place entries except in cases of immediate pursuit);

  • to Order "a person to cease or refrain from any activity that the officer considers is, or is potentially, dangerous to human life or health or public safety or detrimental to the environment or property in a park or recreation area or to the use and enjoyment of the park or recreation area by others";

  • Order the removal of any person contravening the Act, engaging in prohibited uses, creating a nuisance or in a location that is considered dangerous; and

  • seize vehicles, boats, airdraft used in contraventions [PPA 18].
Additionally, the Minister may make Orders for a number of specific measures such as closure of park lands, restricted travel and access within park lands, and generally to "authorize the doing of any other acts, matters and things relating to the purpose and administration of this Act" [PPA 13].

Lastly, the Act contains a broad general offence that allows for prosecution of contraventions [PPA 24].


4. Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act

(a) Overview

The WAERNAHRA establishes four categories of protected land (hereafter 'WAERNAHRA areas'), distinct from PPA park lands, as follows [they are all linked at s.1(a) above]:
  • Wilderness Areas

    Alberta currently has three Wilderness Areas: Siffleur, White Ghost and White Goat [WAERNAHRA 3].

  • Ecological Reserves

    These are lands designated by the provincial Cabinet that are a "representative example of a natural ecosystem in Alberta", that "contains rare or endangered native plants or animals that should be preserved", or that "contains unique or rare examples of natural biological or physical features" and that may be useful for scientific research [WAERNAHRA 4].

  • Natural areas

    These are lands designated by the provincial Cabinet in order to "protect sensitive or scenic public land or natural features on public land from disturbance ... for use by the public for conservation, nature appreciation, low intensity outdoor recreation or education, or for any combination of those purposes" [WAERNAHRA 4.01].

  • Heritage Rangelands

    Heritage rangelands may be designated from publicly-owned or leased lands by the provincial Cabinet "in order to ensure its preservation and protection using grazing to maintain the grassland ecology" [WAERNAHRA 4.1].
The Minister may conduct programs in any of these four types of areas for the "management and preservation of its animal and plant life and environment", amongst other purposes [WAERNAHRA 5].

Ecological Reserves (with some exceptions) and Wilderness Areas are legally less tolerant of human commercial activities than park lands [compare to s. 1(b) above], such that when an area is created, the Minister "shall ensure as far as practicable that the commercial interest [aka 'disposition'] is withdrawn, cancelled or otherwise terminated as soon as possible" and shall not enter into any new dispositions respecting the land [WAERNAHRA 6,7]. Similar, but less stringent, restrictions on the creation of new dispositions apply to Natural Areas [WAERNAHRA 7.1] and Heritage Rangelands [WAERNARA 7.2].

(b) Prohibitions and Protections

With some exceptions, the following prohibitions apply with respect to the different types of lands protected under WAERNAHRA [WAERNAHRA 8-10]:
  • no travel in a wilderness area except on foot;

  • no hunting, trapping or fishing in a wilderness area or ecological reserve;

  • no depositing of "litter, garbage or refuse in a wilderness area, ecological reserve, natural area or heritage rangeland except in places provided and designated for that purpose";

  • no collection, destruction or removal of any plant or animal life (including bird eggs) in a wilderness area, ecological reserve or heritage rangeland;

  • no use in a wilderness area of a horse, pack animal, cycle or any motor vehicle;

  • no motor vehicles, motor boats, off-road vehicles in ecological reserves;

  • no introduction or deposit of a "substance or organism that is or may be harmful to plant or animal life" into a wilderness area or ecological reserves;

  • no overnight camping in an ecological reserve;

  • no open fires in a wilderness area or an ecological reserve;

  • no destruction or damage to "any land, water, plant life or animal life in a wilderness area, ecological reserve, natural area or heritage rangeland".
(c) Enforcement

WAERNAHRA empowers conservation officers with all necessary authority to perform their duties under it, though these are not spelled out in detail [WAERNAHRA 15].
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