The ‘healthy parks–healthy people’ movement in Canada: progress, challenges, and an emerging knowledge and action agenda

The ‘healthy parks–healthy people’ movement in Canada: progress, challenges, and an emerging knowledge and action agenda

Christopher J. Lemieux, Mark W. Groulx, Rachel T. Buxton, Catherine E. Reining, Clara-Jane (C.J.) Blye, Nadha Hassen, Sara-Lynn (Penina) Harding, Elizabeth A. Halpenny, Melissa Lem, Sonya L. Jakubec, Pamela Wright, Tonya Makletzoff, Mara Kerry, Karen Keenleyside, Pascale Salah van der Leest, Jill Bueddefeld, Raynald (Harvey) Lemelin, Don Carruthers Den Hoed, Brad Steinberg, Rike Moon, Jacqueline Scott, Jennifer Grant, Zahrah Khan, Dawn Carr, Lisa McLaughlin and Richard Krehbiel

First Published May, 2022

DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.CH.2022.PARKS‐28‐1CJL.en

In this article, we outline progress and challenges in establishing effective health promotion tied to visitor experiences provided by protected and conserved areas in Canada. Despite an expanding global evidence base, case studies focused on aspects of health and well-being within Canada’s protected and conserved areas remain limited. Data pertaining to motivations, barriers and experiences of visitors are often not collected by governing agencies and, if collected, are not made generally available or reported on. There is an obvious, large gap in research and action focused on the needs and rights of groups facing systemic barriers related to a variety of issues including, but not limited to, access, nature experiences, and needs with respect to health and well-being outcomes. Activation of programmes at the site level continue to grow, and Park Prescription programmes, as well as changes to the Accessible Canada Act, represent significant, positive examples of recent cross-sector policy integration. Evaluations of outcomes associated with HPHP programmes have not yet occurred but will be important to adapting interventions and informing cross-sector capacity building. We conclude by providing an overview of gaps in evidence and practice that, if addressed, can lead to more effective human health promotion vis-à-vis nature contact in protected and conserved areas in Canada.

Key words: protected areas, conserved areas, human health, well-being, promotion, policy, equity, inclusion, nature

Citation Details

Lemieux, C. et al. (2022). The ‘healthy parks–healthy people’ movement in Canada: progress, challenges, and an emerging knowledge and action agenda. International Journal of Protected Areas and Conservation. 21 (1) doi:

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Assessing Evidence for Conservation Strategies

A practical approach to assessing existing evidence for specific conservation strategies

Nick Salafsky, Robin Irvine, Judy Boshoven, Jaclyn Lucas, Kent Prior, Jean-François Bisaillon, Becky Graham, Paul Haper, André Laurin, Amanda Lavers, Lalenia Neufeld, and Richard Margoluis

First Published April, 2022

There is currently a great deal of work being undertaken to collect, analyze, and synthesize available evidence about the effectiveness of conservation strategies. But substantial challenges still remain in enabling practitioners to assess and apply this evidence to their conservation work in an efficient manner. To solve these challenges, there is growing recognition of the need to use situation assessments and theory of change pathways to detail a set of analytical questions and specific assumptions that can be assessed against the evidence base to “make the case” for a proposed strategy and to identify gaps in knowledge. In this study, we first provide updated definitions of some key terms. We then present and provide examples of an approach to enable practitioners to evaluate the evidence base for the critical assumptions that underlie their specific conservation strategies and to wisely use evidence coming from different knowledge systems. This practical approach, which was developed through a series of pilot tests with Parks Canada projects, involves four iterative steps: (1) identify critical questions and assumptions requiring evidence; (2) assemble and assess the specific and generic evidence for each assumption; (3) determine confidence in evidence and its implications; and (4) validate the assessment and iteratively adapt as needed. Ideally, this approach can be integrated into existing decision‐making frameworks and can also facilitate better cooperation between researchers who synthesize evidence and practitioners who use evidence to make conservation both more effective and efficient.

Citation Details

Salafsky, N., Irvine, R., Boshoven, J., Lucas, J., Prior, K., Jean‐François Bisaillon, . . . Margoluis, R. (2022). A practical approach to assessing existing evidence for specific conservation strategies. Conservation Science and Practice, 4(4) doi:

About Open Access Peer Reviewed Resources

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the original published site.

Managing Human Use In Canada’s National Parks – Defining a Way Forward

The above was presented at the March 9-12, 2021 Virtual Research Summit.

Ce qui précède a été présenté au Sommet de Recherche Virtuel du 9 au 12 mars 2021.

The following is preliminary content for a session at the March 9-12, 2021 Virtual Research Summit, submitted by Dr. Sarah Elmeligi with Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Southern Alberta Chapter.

Ce qui suit est le contenu préliminaire d’une session du Sommet de Recherche Virtuel du 9 au 12 mars 2021, présenté par Dr. Sarah Elmeligi avec la Société pour la nature et les parcs du Canada – section du sud de l’Alberta.


(Lisez la version française ci-dessous.)

As visitation to some of Canada’s most popular National Parks increases, the impacts of “over-tourism” are becoming more acute and intense. Various ecological impacts of high visitation include the spread of invasive species, increased erosion and alteration of water flow patterns, increased risk of human-wildlife conflict, and displacement of sensitive species from critical habitats. The social impact of over-tourism includes increased crowding, visitor expectations not being met, and other impacts to the overall visitor experience, and potential impacts to the visitor experience. Throughout the years, Parks Canada has implemented various management actions to address visitor use at popular sites, such as shuttle buses, backcountry trail reservation systems, and encouraging visitation in shoulder seasons. Yet, these efforts have not been placed into a larger landscape strategic plan. The United States and Australia have also developed programs to strategically manage visitor use. Reviewing these approaches, we identified some commonalities. A successful visitor use management framework requires robust human use data and social science to understand levels of visitation, where people go, and what forms of recreation they participate in. Social science can also generate an understanding of visitor expectations and motivations to visit a park, which can shape management programs. Well supported visitor use management strategies engage with stakeholders throughout the process. All frameworks acknowledge that data gaps exist in our understanding of park ecological, social, and cultural values; these data gaps may be addressed as part of a framework that starts by creating visitor use objectives and goals. A robust visitor use management framework also requires monitoring programs within the context of adaptive management. This last component helps fill data gaps, facilitates experimenting with management options, and allows flexibility to continually refine management strategies to have the greatest positive effect on the park experience and its ecological attributes. Implementing a visitor use management strategy for any park is a massive effort requiring successful collaboration with external stakeholders, park managers, and the Canadian public. Finding solutions to these complex problems inherently involves the need to try new things, develop new and meaningful relationships, and reassess objectives regarding the visitor experience.

CPAWS Southern Alberta has proposed a step-by-step process that engages with stakeholders and results in a visitor use management strategy for landscape units in the Rocky Mountain National Parks:

1. Identify the Landscape Management Unit objectives and evaluation subjects relevant to visitor impacts on natural values

2. Prioritize natural assets and threats

3. Select indicators and establish thresholds

4. Establish management strategies

5. Implement, monitor, evaluate, and adjust

Putting existing management efforts into the context of an overarching strategy across a larger landscape can help increase management effectiveness in addressing multiple ecological, social, and cultural objectives. CPAWS will provide a brief overview of our proposed process and engage protected area managers in a discussion around how best to work collaboratively with stakeholders to address this complex issue.


Avec l’augmentation de la fréquentation de certains des parcs nationaux les plus populaires du Canada, les conséquences du “sur-tourisme” se font sentir de manière plus aiguë et plus intense. Parmi les divers impacts écologiques d’une forte fréquentation, on peut citer la propagation d’espèces envahissantes, l’augmentation de l’érosion et la modification des schémas d’écoulement des eaux, le risque accru de conflit entre l’homme et la faune sauvage et le déplacement d’espèces sensibles des habitats essentiels. L’impact social du sur-tourisme comprend l’augmentation de l’affluence, la non-satisfaction des attentes des visiteurs et d’autres impacts sur l’expérience globale du visiteur, ainsi que des impacts potentiels sur l’expérience du visiteur. Au fil des ans, Parcs Canada a mis en œuvre diverses mesures de gestion pour répondre à l’utilisation des visiteurs sur les sites populaires, comme les navettes, les systèmes de réservation de sentiers dans l’arrière-pays et l’encouragement de la fréquentation pendant les saisons intermédiaires. Cependant, ces efforts n’ont pas été intégrés dans un plan stratégique plus vaste concernant le paysage. Les États-Unis et l’Australie ont également développé des programmes pour gérer stratégiquement l’utilisation des visiteurs. En examinant ces approches, nous avons identifié certains points communs. Un cadre de gestion réussie de l’utilisation des visiteurs nécessite de solides données sur l’utilisation humaine et les sciences sociales pour comprendre les niveaux de fréquentation, les endroits où les gens vont et les formes de loisirs auxquelles ils participent. Les sciences sociales peuvent également permettre de comprendre les attentes et les motivations des visiteurs à visiter un parc, ce qui peut influencer les programmes de gestion. Des stratégies de gestion de l’utilisation des visiteurs bien étayées engagent les parties prenantes tout au long du processus. Tous les cadres reconnaissent qu’il existe des lacunes dans la compréhension des valeurs écologiques, sociales et culturelles des parcs ; ces lacunes peuvent être comblées dans un cadre qui commence par la création d’objectifs et de buts pour l’utilisation des visiteurs. Un cadre solide de gestion de l’utilisation des visiteurs nécessite également des programmes de surveillance dans le contexte de la gestion adaptative. Ce dernier élément permet de combler les lacunes des données, facilite l’expérimentation des options de gestion et permet une flexibilité pour affiner continuellement les stratégies de gestion afin d’avoir le plus grand effet positif possible sur l’expérience du parc et ses attributs écologiques. La mise en œuvre d’une stratégie de gestion de l’utilisation des visiteurs pour tout parc est un effort massif qui nécessite une collaboration fructueuse avec les parties prenantes externes, les gestionnaires du parc et le public canadien. Pour trouver des solutions à ces problèmes complexes, il est nécessaire d’essayer de nouvelles choses, de développer des relations nouvelles et significatives et de réévaluer les objectifs concernant l’expérience du visiteur.

CPAWS Southern Alberta a proposé un processus étape par étape qui engage les parties prenantes et aboutit à une stratégie de gestion de l’utilisation des visiteurs pour les unités de paysage dans les parcs nationaux des Rocheuses :

1. Identifier les objectifs de l’unité de gestion du paysage et les sujets d’évaluation pertinents aux impacts des visiteurs sur les valeurs naturelles

2. Donner la priorité aux biens et menaces naturels

3. Sélectionner des indicateurs et établir des seuils

4. Établir des stratégies de gestion

5. Mettre en œuvre, suivre, évaluer et ajuster

En plaçant les efforts de gestion existants dans le contexte d’une stratégie globale à l’échelle d’un paysage plus vaste, on peut contribuer à accroître l’efficacité de la gestion pour atteindre de multiples objectifs écologiques, sociaux et culturels. La SNAP fournira un bref aperçu du processus que nous proposons et engagera les gestionnaires de zones protégées dans une discussion sur la meilleure façon de travailler en collaboration avec les parties prenantes pour aborder cette question complexe.

Traduit avec (version gratuite)

Translated with (free version).

Back to pre-summit material.

Retour à la matériel de pré-sommet.

CPCIL Webinar: Speaking Histories about Parks and Protected Areas (Recorded)

Recording of Webinar

Facing many changes and opportunities, the stories of parks and protected areas need to be shared, understood—and reconsidered—to reflect the role of parks in efforts of conservation, connection, and now Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

This webinar was the result of a CPCIL invitation to present the national history of parks and protected areas in Canada, while including the perspective of an Indigenous scholar reconnecting to their land and language. One of the panelists is a biologist and manager in federal protected areas, while the other an Indigenous languages advocate whose ancestors had been removed from what is now referred to as Wood Buffalo National Park. Both presenters hope to spark a meaningful conversation about the historical contexts of parks and protected areas, and the involvement and inclusion of Indigenous Peoples and their rights when co-developing parks and protected areas.


Olaf Jensen

Protected Areas Program Director        

Canadian Wildlife Service                     

Kyle Napier

Dene/nêhiyaw Métis

Northwest Territory Métis Nation