Parks Beyond Borders: Global National Park News

downyown banff canada.

Banff's new festival, SpringstART, makes April a great time to appreciate the Canadian National Park town's art, history, and heritage. Photo, courtesy Banff Tourism.

Editor's note: The Traveler is expanding our coverage of national parks in other nations with this weekly sampling of global park news and upcoming travel features. If you live in one of the 200 countries where our readers reside, send Randy your news or suggestions.

New Alaska Cruise Tours Include Yukon National Parks

Holland America Line’s 2012 Alaska CruiseTour program is introducing three new options. Besides “the industry's only three-night Denali experience," six tours also feature Canada's Yukon Territory with its Klondike Gold Rush heritage and pristine national parks such as Kluane National Park and Tombstone Park.

Kluane National Park in southwestern Yukon contains Canada’s highest mountain, 19,551-foot Mount Logan, part of the Saint Elias Range. Glaciers and mountains cover 80% of the park. The itinerary also includes Tombstone Territorial Park, where Holland America’s trip video promises that you can, “experience true wilderness, and be back in Dawson for dinner.”

The trips depart from May through September, and originate in Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Explore some options here, or call 877-724-5425

New Festival Welcomes Spring in Banff National Park

April 6 - 29, 2012, springtime in the Rockies leaps to life with Banff National Park's new springstART festival featuring cultural and artistic events.

"SpringstART represents the first time that such a wide variety of events devoted to Banff's arts, history and heritage have been developed," says John Bowden, program director of Banff Heritage Tourism. "With such a diverse number of performances and exhibits, most free of charge, this is a wonderful time to visit Canada's first national park."

The festival includes First Nations' storytelling, mountaineering camps in Banff Avenue Square, photography clinics, a photography exhibition at the Whyte Museum, and screenings of mountain films, among them an April 7th showing of Tom Shadyac's "I AM." The director will also host a question and answer period. April 22nd Earth Day celebrations will include family-friendly events at the Bison Courtyard.

Brits Invite Global Visitors—and Locals—to Pick Favo(u)rite UK National Parks

English Tourism Week (March 10th-17th) launched a UK “programme” called “Love Our Land” designed to get residents and visitors from around the UK and the world to share what they love about England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

A government-funded rural development program, Our-Land.co.uk, is asking people to participate in a “cultural mapping” concept that tracks opinions through posts on Twitter and Facebook. You’re able to weigh-in about “what you love” with video, photos and testimonials aimed to determine the most-loved and “distinctive features of the landscapes on our doorstep in order to help conserve and protect them for future generations.”

Our Land’s Manager, Kate Shepherd, said: “This is the first time the UK conservation movement has ever asked residents and tourists about their perceptions, associations and memories of the landscape. Social media is the perfect way to crowd source this information and remind people of the incredible places to visit. So many of us have lived in or visited the UK’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Love Our Land campaign needs you!”

England’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are not national parks, but they include quintessential landscapes such as the Cotswolds, Chilterns, High Weald, Isle of Wight, Kent Downs, North Wessex Downs, and Surrey Hills.

Shepherd said, the “aim is to inspire people to re-discover the ‘Protected Landscapes’ and boost the vital revenue generated through tourism, whilst ensuring the long-term protection of the areas.”

VisitEngland CEO James Berresford said, “English Tourism Week shines a light on the quality and diversity of our visitor experiences, so we’re thrilled that the ‘Love Our Land’ campaign is launching in tandem. ... We fully support anything that proactively encourages more visitors to get out and about and enjoy our country.”

From March 9th onward, “people can tell us what they love about our land on the Our Land Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ourlanduk, or on Twitter (@OurLandUK) using the hashtag #loveourland.” A monthly poll for Facebook page entries and an annual competition will net prizes for entrants who best express ‘Love Our Land’. Prizes include holidays to the UK’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Politics and National Parks in Oz

Australia just designated a major new national park, one of the country’s largest, delighting environmentalists and getting immediate push back from fishing industries.

Limmen National Park and Limmen Bight Marine Park lie on the western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia’s Northern Territory south-east of Darwin.

Northern Territory Minister for Resources Kon Vatskalis, said, "The proposed marine park area contains significant seagrass beds that are home to the largest population of dugongs (editor’s note: a species similar to manatees) in the NT as well as containing nesting sites for the threatened flatback turtle.” Some indigenous communities in northeast Australia have reduced their harvest of both animals in the wake of flooding last year that affected the species’ sources of food and habitat.

The park contains Maria Island, where the turtles nest and feed, and colonies of silver gulls. The mainland part of the park contains the most spectacular weathered sandstone rock formations in northern Australia.

Some mining companies supported the designation, having achieved a 20% reduction in the park size before designation in order to explore for mineral deposits. It’s expected that if those areas do not yield marketable deposits the land will be returned to park designation. Rob Fish, chair of the Northern Territories Seafood Council (which represents 250 commercial fishing businesses in the area) was angry, saying that his group was not consulted. Government representatives said the group had a multi-month chance to comment.

Dr. Stuart Blanch, director of the NT Environment Centre, a Darwin conservation organization wasn’t happy about all the accommodation with business interests. "The park and marine park must become a cornerstone of efforts across the Top End to protect and restore ecological connectivity on land and sea," he said. "We will be working to ensure the vast majority of excised lands will be added back to the park over the next five to ten years."

Post-Tsunami Japan Permits "Direct" Geothermal Drilling in National Parks

On March 21st, Japan's Environment Ministry decided to loosen guidelines regarding drilling for geothermal energy in national parks.

In February 2012 the ministry announced that it would permit diagonal drilling to access geothermal resources from outside park boundaries. The added expense of that "indirect" approach raised objections so the government has decided to permit in-park drilling. News reports said permission for "direct drilling" would be predicated on permission being granted by local bodies and the assurance that low impact technologies would be used.

The Nature Conservation Society of Japan said the change was a step backward for the environment. The group called into question the entire shift, saying that the plants’ environmental impact in pristine, sensitive areas was unknown.

Post-Tsunami, Japan finds itself in a constrained energy situation, with almost all of its nuclear power plants closed—and an estimated 20 nuclear power plants worth of geothermal energy not yet exploited. Much of that is believed to lie beneath national parks.