Balancing Tourism with Conservation in Banff National Park | EXPOSED Conservation | EP 09

Balancing Tourism with Conservation in Banff National Park | EXPOSED Conservation | EP 09

On January 21st, 2016, members of the Banff
Town wolf pack were photographed right here in this parking lot at Johnston Canyon, in
the heart of the park, scavenging garbage. A year later, eight wolves are dead, and people like me are asking, ‘Why is Banff a haven for tourists, yet a nightmare for wolves and other wildlife?’ My name is John E. Marriott, and this episode, we’re EXPOSING you to the impact of mass tourism and development on the wildlife of Banff National Park. Banff National Park. This has been my backyard for the past 26 years. And with its stunning Rocky Mountain scenery and spectacular wildlife, it’s no surprise that millions of people flock here each year, making this one of the world’s premier tourist destinations. But does this popularity come with a cost? Is the gem of our national parks system actually failing at protecting what it’s supposed to be protecting? Banff National Park was established in 1885 as Canada’s first national park and just the third in the world. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site spans just over 66 hundred square kilometers, similar in size to Prince Edward Island or Delaware, and draws visitors from around the world. It is a protected home for 53 mammals species, including some of my favorite animals to photograph: grizzly bears, black bears, moose, elk, deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, lynx, and of course, wild wolves. To me and many others, I think wolves really symbolize what wilderness feels like. Not only are they a stunning animal, but science has shown that wolves are a keystone species and an integral part of a healthy ecosystem. In fact, wolves have been shown to positively influence the population size and behaviour of their prey, changing foraging patterns
and how that prey moves on the land. And there’s no better example of the positive role that wolves can play in an ecosystem than the case study of Yellowstone National Park where wolves were recently successfully reintroduced. I saw the first wolf of my life in Banff in
the spring of 1991 just off the Trans-Canada Highway right here at Castle Mountain. I remember watching the wolf across the river here, and all of a sudden being just blown away to see this cow elk come bursting out the bush with another wolf hot on its heels. The elk lived to see another day, and me,
I was hooked. Since that day I’ve followed a number of
packs all over the Rockies and throughout Banff. From the Bow Valley pack to the Pipestones to the current Banff Town pack, I never get tired of watching and photographing these amazing animals. I first encountered the new Town pack in November 2015 when I was driving along the Bow Valley Parkway early one morning. I remember watching them in total awe as the three yearling pups danced around curiously in the middle of the road at a distance while mom and dad just bee-lined along, all business, looking for prey. At the time, the family seemed to be thriving, but that was about to change. Sometime in January 2016, construction crews working here at Johnston Canyon left garbage in several open construction bins. On January 21st, a local photographer reported seeing three wolves eating that same garbage in the parking lot. That incident began a cascading effect that reads like a crime spree trail. By the end of May 2016, the adult wolves,
now feeding six new pups, began entering campgrounds and campsites looking for food left out by
careless campers. Inevitably, things began to go sideways for the wolves in a terrible way. The events culminated that spring and summer with the deaths of Kootenay, the alpha female, and Scout, one of her yearling pups — both
shot and killed by Parks Canada officials that agonized over having to make the decision. Through no fault of their own, the wolves
had become food conditioned and were considered a risk to visitor safety. There really was no other option left but
to destroy them. Within weeks, the pups began dying, too. Four of them were killed on the Canadian Pacific railway tracks in the span of a month. And the final two pups? Well, they just disappeared into the chaos,
never to be seen again. Eight wolves dead in less than a year…and guess what the fines were for the two construction companies that started it all? $1000 each… The truth is, this park is in serious trouble. Careless behaviour such as messy construction sites and campsites are on the rise in Banff, as are visitor and vehicle numbers. In 2014-15, 3.6 million visitors came to the park and a year later, in 2015-16, visitation numbers jumped a whopping 8%. Banff is now facing a breaking point when
it comes to its protection of the park’s ecological integrity. There is an ongoing, ever-increasing pressure to commercialize more and more of the park at the expense of the animals that call it
home. And while visitation is soaring, Parks Canada has seen its budgets shrink almost as quickly. There are now 30% fewer resource conservation staff in the field and on the ground in the park despite the fact it’s busier than ever. It often seems that Parks Canada is more concerned about increasing tourism than it is about nature conservation, despite the fact that
nature conservation is a key part of its mandate under the Canada National Parks Act. In fact, the Act states that “national parks
are to be maintained and used so as to leave them unimpaired for future generations.” And an amendment to the Act in 1988 made preserving the ecological integrity of the park the first priority in all management decisions. In other words, Parks Canada is supposed to prioritize the health and well-being of the wildlife, biodiversity, and natural processes inside the park. Unfortunately, the opposite seems to be happening. With the continued increase in visitors coupled with a decrease in funding and park staffing over the past several years, ecological integrity in Banff is suffering. Our wildlife…and our wolves, are suffering. With more visitors, comes more vehicles. A lot more. In fact, last year the park had almost four
million visitors and the majority came in by private vehicle. What that means is that the park highways have become ribbons of death, mitigated in recent years, thankfully, by the construction of a wildlife fence along the Trans-Canada Highway between Banff’s borders. Unfortunately, the Canadian Pacific railway that dissects the heart of the park has had no such mitigation and it remains a killing
field for everything from wolves and grizzly bears to elk and deer. Combine the roads and railways with the glut of commercial development in the park and it’s easy to see why the Bow Valley has
become a tenuous place for carnivores to survive long term. To compound the threat, 2017 is Canada’s
150th birthday and our Liberal government has decided to celebrate by gifting everyone free entry into all of our national parks, including into Banff. And while that sounds like a great idea on
the surface, Banff’s already overcrowded townsite and attractions are expecting to be flooded with up to five million visitors this year. How will that additional growth further impact our parks and our wildlife? And how is it going to affect the three remaining members of the Banff Town wolf pack? In recent months, Parks Canada has announced some steps to address the expected influx of visitors this year, including a renewed
focus on visitor education and a slight increase in funding for conservation staff. But what’s really needed at this point is an action plan from the federal government to deal with these problems in Banff. And the truth is, they already have one. In 1996, 20 years ago, the Bow Valley Study came up with a clear list of recommendations for what should happen in Banff, yet the various federal governments through the years, have simply ignored most of those recommendations. The federal government needs to revisit that study and dramatically increase funding back into conservation. Everyone should be able to visit our magnificent national parks and enjoy our wildlife like wolves, but for that to continue to happen,
we need to ensure they are protected now and for future generations. In early April, the Banff Town wolf family
suffered another tragedy. Two-year-old Anik, a black male wolf, dispersed out of the park, was shot and killed by a trophy hunter after leaving his father and
sister. His sister is now wandering the Bow Valley on her own. But thankfully, it’s not all bad news regarding this wolf family. Much to everyone’s surprise, the alpha male, the father, Rusty, is believed to be denning with an unknown wolf or wolves just south of the Town of Banff. What will those wolf pups face in Banff? Only time will tell… If you are concerned with the well-being of Banff’s wolves and other wildlife and the increase in visitation and development in
the park, please ‘Take Action’ by clicking the link at the end of this episode or visit

77 thoughts on “Balancing Tourism with Conservation in Banff National Park | EXPOSED Conservation | EP 09

  1. Thanks for sharing this video, showin off the wonderful natural world of Banff national park. you are doing a fantastic job.

  2. We need parks where no people are allowed.Parks offer no protection for wildlife.

  3. Excellent as usual, John. Some similarities to what's been happening in Yellowstone down here in the States; surges in attendance while funding to the National Parks has been cut. A significant contributor to the surge in attendance has been social media. A double-edged sword to be sure.

  4. Thanks for making videos like this and calling out Parks Canada.
    People in general need to be held accountable for their actions… inactions and it up to other people to do it.

  5. So sad. It's been hard to watch the direction the park has been headed. I almost feel like they should close 1A this year to avoid problems…. curious where is pipestone?

  6. I've shared this video on Facebook and hope that people will think twice before heading out there this year. I will NOT be going to the mountain parks this year because the free pass will encourage far too many people to visit.

  7. I think as well that there needs to be wide safe corridors where animals can travel from one park or wilderness zone to another

  8. Money rules the world, and it's sickening. Our duty as humans is to protect this beautiful world we have

  9. I wish I could join you what pore beautiful wolves just being killed what a crime that company should have been fined 10'000 each cause those are almost the last wolves alive boy I almost have tears coming!!!

  10. Damn. . . I went to Banff six years ago and it breaks my heart seeing this. I remember seeing a little wolf pup on 1A around midnight. amazing.

  11. I have watched all your videos in one afternoon and I am really impressed! Not only because of the quality of the videos or because of your amazing pictures but because of your dedication to protect the wildlife you encounter. I have always been a wildlife lover and being an amateur photographer myself these videos really inspire me in trying to take actions to protect it. Thanks a lot for your documentaries and I hope that more and more people will follow your movement.

  12. Great perspective – we need to act now > why not start an online petition? Just a thought. Thanks John for being vocal.

    Greetings from Vancouver Island 🙂

  13. Thanks John for bringing this issue to our attention !! We need to step up and put pressure on our government, to enforce the laws in place to protect the wildlife !! Thanks for all your work !! I will be taking action !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. If you go back when Parks were invented…they fought the main issue…ACCESS. It was the thing needed to draw crowds so they can save the land from too much timber or mining, but it brought TONS of people and the down fall also. They understood that when they built parks from the very beginning. We still have the same issue today.

  15. In my country as it joined to EU recently far too much people come as tourists to visit it.
    Shortly, as I was following what was going on in the remains of the wilderness here, I found out that a lot of damage is already caused. There will be no way to repair whats done already, ever. I am finding no footprints in the known areas, any more not to mention the all rest to prove that. Seems like there is no place for the wildlife to live in peace and harmony.
    Is it still money what we only care about?

  16. Unfortunately, I think we need to start holding Parks Canada accountable. Banff isn't the only park where profit before conservation takes place.

  17. Thanks for sharing…we "discovered" the wolves in Yellowstone and continue to go back a couple of times a year to watch them. I have followed you for a while and love your photographs of the wolves and grizzly bears – thanks for all you do for our wildlife! Such a tragedy for these wolves.

  18. Sorry I'm late to the party. Not only do you videos draw attention to important topics but the production quality is outstanding. Being from Alberta this was impactful to see. Subbed.

    Any chance you could tell me what mountain that is at 1:35?

  19. Tourism destroys so many things. In other countries it has a big impact on indigenous people too. Anything to make money.

  20. Thank you for publishing this John! Here in the US I went to Yosemite for the first time last summer (2017) and couldn't believe the stress that tourist unknowingly place on the wildlife ecosystem. Videos like yours will help put the pressure on the Feds to follow the policies that already exist. Thank you again for your work.

  21. Very well put together video and about something I feel passionate about. Loved it. Also that intro gave me goosebumps!

  22. John, the "re-introduction" of wolves in Yellowstone was an illegal introduction of a non-native sub species. There was documented evidence of the native sub species, Canis Lupus Irremotus, thriving in the Wyoming / Idaho / Montana area, even in non-wilderness areas. The "re-introduction" was a money making, vote getting stunt by FWS, NGO's and the Clinton administration. The study you reference, is a white wash of the program and not based on facts. Read "Wolves of Yellowstone" by Cat Urbigkit.

  23. Thanks John! Making people aware of this situation. As a Bow Valley resident, it's a shame to see whats happening around here. It's going to be interesting to see what the long-term effects are going to be or if they can reverse it.

  24. Tourist go to Banft and Jasper but 99% don't go hiking. Should be plenty of room for animals….we're animals too!

  25. It is sad to see how some human beings might react in the most inappropriate way with no good judgment. It is important to protect wild habitat and natural resources.

  26. It’s a fine balance of protecting the nature & wildlife of Banff NP & making it available to the masses to enjoy & who ultimately bring money into the area & contributions to it’s conservation, but to accommodate this demand & influx of people every year demands more infrastructure in the shape of hotels, new developments & bigger roads to keep up with the extra traffic as well as enabling humans to make it around the area easier. But this fine balance is happening in a lot of places around the world where wildlife & nature are the attraction, which is a shame because the only victims are the nature & the wildlife which are becoming victims of their new found popularity. Keep up the good work & good luck. Mark.

  27. This was an amazing video! I made a two week trip from Jasper to BC back to Banff… and I was absolutely disgusted by the behavior of some tourists. In one such incident, there was a large group of people who approached a bull elk (with their children in tow) on the side of the road. I yelled at them, telling them "Get away from the elk. It is in rut. Not only are you endangering yourselves and your children, you are endangering the animal!". Not one person listened. There was also litter, and extreme noise on the trails and in campgrounds. I actually spoke with some very nice tourists who said they "were hoping to see a grizzly bear on their tour". I politely told them "I actually don't want to see them. If I do see them, it means that they have become too accustomed to people, or they are too close to the roadways. I am happy they aren't visible. It means they are safe, and enjoying their own habitat." These people were taken aback at first, but I could see them contemplate this idea, and accept it. I told them of "Bear 148" who was, in my opinion, as good as murdered by the Banff tourist industry. I am so passionate about this topic and am hoping to get employment with Parks Canada, to assist with the conservation endeavor. Again, excellent work 🙂

  28. Excellent and informative video. I must say it’s alarming at the speed vehicles travel between Jasper and Banff on the icehighway. I hope your hard work in making this video reaches out to people who sometimes don’t realize that their actions in the park could change the behaviour of wild animals and not in a good way

  29. I go here every summer I’m Canadian.why did he need to talk about the government being liberal about free passes

  30. I'm currently doing a project on tourism in national parks and, as part of that, the so-called use-conservation gap. I find that there is a place in between where both can be accommodated somehow.
    Further, it is also important to point out that conservation can also be considered as 'use' as we conserve nature because then there's something for humans to enjoy. This whole discussion is so very interesting, and it also brings up the position which we as humans take in the world. Do we own nature or what?

  31. Sadly for the wildlife, humankinds norm of making excuses, is their toll. Wildlife has no option but to act, and I only wish it was the same for the humankind. Personally I simply avoid lazy people, and can only hope something will make them wake up at some point. Too many self claimed helpless people in this world, when we all know how few truly are.

  32. Wildlife that threaten human beings should not be shot. But instead human should get out of their turf and limit access to the environment where such animals may be present. It doesn’t make any sense to kill off these animals so humans can enjoy nature and camping. What places our needs above all theirs?

  33. Part of the action plan should be to educate each Province of Canada so that everyone learns to behave. Especially Ontario !

  34. I will be in Bannf next week travelling by bus (onit regional and greyhound) and using (roam) public transit. 1 less car hope that helps.

  35. Wish they would reintroduce the wolves here in Scotland, beautiful creatures, had the luxury to photograph them in the Highland Wildlife Park, amazing what they do for the ecosystem. Sad to see that about the wildlife being shot and killed just because of people leaving leftover from garbage.

  36. cant we breed some wolves in captivity with minimal human interaction for a relativly low cost then set em loose in banff?

  37. This is so horrible. Thank you for shedding light on these issues. My belief is the health and well-being of wildlife should come above that of tourists. Nature conservation must come first every time

  38. Europeans(European originated) go into other Asian or African countries blabbering & makeing documentary about illegal hunting, destroying wildlife & stuff while on their own countries they're doing shit to wildlife…… Very few of them care, & some show as if they care on the outside but in reality most of them are like "oh I don't really give a fuck" (classic arrogance & ignorance)…. That only $1000 fine is one of the many example

  39. Hi John, wonderful coverage of the great North American Wolf. Thank you for sharing such beauty with the world. Do you have any videos on the whitetail deer?

  40. This is what happen when you create God into your own image and after your like this, everything else has no right to exist except for those things that look like you and when it threatens your so call way of life it should not exist.

  41. As a conservationist and photographer, I aspire to make such content one day.. Well researched and extremely educational + 1 subscriber

    Thank you

  42. Yet again more persecution of the wolf. Funny how we forget that without wolves we wouldn't have had dogs, and by having dogs helped people get to the stage we could build civilisations

  43. this is really sad, all over the world, Africa, Asia, USA, Canada and etc.. their govt always take profit first before wild lives
    8 wolves killed within a year, that is such a heartbreaking number considering they are few to begin with.
    The planet is just over populated and we humans are slowly destroying it by killing wild lives through poaching, trophy hunting and sometimes simply we think they are an inconvenience….
    Having said that. this is a really beautiful videos and i thoroughly enjoy every videos from Mr. John Marriott, Thanks you for sharing

  44. Sometimes, I feel, it would be better for the Wildlife [and us too, sometimes] if most of the Wildlife viewing tourism, was reduced to installing more live Cameras in the wilderness, so people could watch the Animals, from their homes… Sadly, that way, they wouldn't make so much money, quite the contrary actually…

  45. Sadly this seems to be the case the world over. As a keen wildlife observer & photographer I feel we are the problem. On the one hand we want access to wildlife, build nice reserves and then they become overrun with vistors (a victim of their own success). I once visited a popular reserve in the UK which has lots of seabirds such as Gannets, Razorbills, Puffins etc. But it was packed with us all trying to view these birds and it was not an enjoyable experience at all. As I live in a city there are only a few wildlife/nature hotspots which again get full of people, which can cause problems for the birds, particularly Swans which get attacked by dogs who have been let off their leads by owners. One local reserve now has a vistor centre, cafe, children's playground, cycle hire and a remote control boat club which use the lake! It is a wonder that the birds have not vacated and gone somewhere else. And don't get me started on dog walkers or drones!

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