December 18, 2012

 

 

HERITAGE

 

Red, White and Green Spaces: National Parks in Italy and Canada

 

by Dino Gavinelli

 

 

 

Accenti HERITAGE  Red, White and Green Spaces: National Parks in Italy and Canada  by Dino Gavinelli

Jasper National Park: Alberta, Canada

Photo by: D. Gavinelli

 

 

 

 

Canada and Italy possess striking landscapes, each unique in its own right, and no less picturesque one from the other. These spaces, often designated as national parks, are as valuable to a sense of national identity and pride as are music, art, and history. Federal and regional authorities in both countries recognize the value of these spaces and play a vital, ongoing role in their creation and maintenance. The notion of national parks is popular, not just with environmentalists, but with visitors and tourists alike. National parks are a proven strategic resource, and all stakeholders – citizens, tourists, environmental groups, and private business – seem to agree on their potential, economic and otherwise.Canada and Italy possess striking landscapes, each unique in its own right, and no less picturesque one from the other. These spaces, often designated as national parks, are as valuable to a sense of national identity and pride as are music, art, and history. Federal and regional authorities in both countries recognize the value of these spaces and play a vital, ongoing role in their creation and maintenance. The notion of national parks is popular, not just with environmentalists, but with visitors and tourists alike. National parks are a proven strategic resource, and all stakeholders – citizens, tourists, environmental groups, and private business – seem to agree on their potential, economic and otherwise.

  

     These groups all share a responsibility towards the ecological well-being and socio-economic growth of these territories. Broadly speaking, in Canada as in Italy, the concerns centre around “sustainable growth” when ecological factors are considered and "usable growth" where leisure and tourism are at issue.  

 

     Canada’s forty-two national parks cover approximately 300,000 square kilometres or about three percent of the country’s total area. A national park has been established in every Canadian province and territory and several of them, including Wood Buffalo, Kootenay, Yoho, Gros Morne, Nahanni, and Kluane parks, have been designated UNESCO world heritage sites. Their sizes range from as little as nine square kilometres (St. Lawrence Islands National Park) to 44,800 square kilometres (Wood Buffalo National Park – nearly twice the size of Sicily). Western Canada is home to some of the most popular parks in the country. The oldest, Alberta’s Banff National Park, was established in 1885. Other popular and important parks in Western Canada include Jasper National Park also in Alberta, and Glacier, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks in British Columbia. Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island is home to picturesque forests. Its territory extends into the Pacific Ocean, offering protection to an ecologically rich marine environment. Other Pacific parks are the Gulf Islands and Gwaii Haanas, where visitors can discover some of the most beautiful landscapes and seascapes on the west coast.

 

     Canada and Italy possess striking landscapes, each unique in its own right, and no less picturesque one from the other. These spaces, often designated as national parks, are as valuable to a sense of national identity and pride as are music, art, and history. Federal and regional authorities in both countries recognize the value of these spaces and play a vital, ongoing role in their creation and maintenance. The notion of national parks is popular, not just with environmentalists, but with visitors and tourists alike. National parks are a proven strategic resource, and all stakeholders – citizens, tourists, environmental groups, and private business – seem to agree on their potential, economic and otherwise.

 

     These groups all share a responsibility towards the ecological well-being and socio-economic growth of these territories. Broadly speaking, in Canada as in Italy, the concerns centre around “sustainable growth” when ecological factors are considered and "usable growth" where leisure and tourism are at issue. 

 

     Canada’s forty-two national parks cover approximately 300,000 square kilometres or about three percent of the country’s total area. A national park has been established in every Canadian province and territory and several of them, including Wood Buffalo, Kootenay, Yoho, Gros Morne, Nahanni, and Kluane parks, have been designated UNESCO world heritage sites. Their sizes range from as little as nine square kilometres (St. Lawrence Islands National Park) to 44,800 square kilometres (Wood Buffalo National Park – nearly twice the size of Sicily). Western Canada is home to some of the most popular parks in the country. The oldest, Alberta’s Banff National Park, was established in 1885. Other popular and important parks in Western Canada include Jasper National Park also in Alberta, and Glacier, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks in British Columbia. Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island is home to picturesque forests. Its territory extends into the Pacific Ocean, offering protection to an ecologically rich marine environment. Other Pacific parks are the Gulf Islands and Gwaii Haanas, where visitors can discover some of the most beautiful landscapes and seascapes on the west coast.

 

     There are equally fascinating national parks in eastern Canada: Gros Morne Park in Newfoundland, Cape Breton Highlands and Kejimkujik in Nova Scotia, and Fundy in New Brunswick, which is known for the highest tides in the world. Canada’s smallest province, PEI, boasts Prince Edward Island National Park, along its coast. In Ontario, on Lake Erie, is Point Pelee National Park. A stop-over site for many species of migratory birds, the park is a paradise for ornithologists and simple birdwatchers alike. Ontario can also lay claim to Bruce Peninsula and Georgian Bay National Parks. In Quebec, Mauricie Park is characterized by gentle, rolling  hills. In the autumn, this forest park’s foliage erupts into brilliant colours. Protected marine parks in Quebec include the Fjords of Saguenay and Forillon, with spectacular cliffs overlooking the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Much further north beyond the Arctic Circle lies Auyuittuq (Inuit for “the land that never melts”) National Park, which occupies part of Baffin Island. Ivvavik Park by the Beaufort Sea in the Yukon is home to caribou, polar bears, and foxes. In the Northwest Territories, one of the most spectacular national parks is Nahanni, which features rugged and beautiful mountain terrain. Parks Canada, the federal agency that manages this network, is vital to preserving this aspect of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage.

 

 

     Italy’s twenty-four national parks are equally valued by locals and tourists alike. In Italy, national parks are officially defined as “… rivers, lakes and areas of land and sea that contain one or more intact ecosystems.” This broad definition signifies the variety and complexity of the Italian national park system, which corresponds to about five percent of Italy’s surface area. Italy was one of the first countries in Europe to reserve land towards the preservation of its environmental and cultural heritage, undertaking a national parks initiative in the early 1900s. The Gran Paradiso National Park is the oldest park in Italy, created in 1922 to protect the endangered ibex. In 1934, Benito Mussolini established Circeo National Park to preserve wetlands in southern Lazio. The park was expanded and reorganized in 1975 by the ministry of agriculture and forestry. Stelvio National Park was created in 1935 in the Alpine region bordering Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige and Swizterland. Covering 400,000 hectares, Stelvio National Park  is the largest protected area in central and southern Europe, an ecological corridor appreciated by Italians and tourists alike. From the end of World War II until the 1980s, political expediency and resistance from local groups hampered the creation of new national parks in Italy, but efforts to limit industrialization and urbanization never waned. A new impetus towards environmental preservation emerged in the 1980s and, between 1989 and 2007, twenty new parks were established. These parks introduced a new view of nature by combining natural and “constructed” environments for the benefit of local communities.

 

     In Canada as in Italy, national parks are home to diverse environments of flora and fauna. The role that these tranquil and remote natural open spaces play on the psycho-social development of human beings cannot be minimized. Scientific and anecdotal evidence shows that natural environments can be triggers of emotional and cognitive well-being and stress reduction. In both countries authorities must continue to balance private economic interests with the public good, and sustainability with responsible management, if they are to preserve such a valuable human resource.

 

 

 

 Dino Gavinelli is professor of linguistic mediation and intercultural studies at the University of Milan.

 

 

 

 

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