On April 30, 2009 environmental groups released a national media story that said that the Banff Spring’s snail (Physella johnsonii), found solely in Banff National Park (BNP), Canada, was the only species out of 449 listed under the Canadian Species at Risk Act (Government of Canada 2002) to benefit from the full legally mandated conservation process. Ironically, on the same day in BNP’s backcountry, Parks Canada staff dug a dead caribou (Rangifer tarandus) out of a snow avalanche. This individual was likely the last southern mountain woodland caribou, also a SARA-listed species, in the park.With its demise, caribou in Banff became the first large mammal species to disappear from a Canadian National Park in over a century (Gurd & Nudds 1999). Yet trends for the park’s caribou should have raised concerns because this population numbered just over 25 individuals as early as 20 years ago and research had provided information on causes of risks to the species and a blueprint for recovery. Faced with caribou extirpation in BNP, we revisited the controversial question Berger (2003) raised about whether it is acceptable to let a species go extinct in a national park. Is it fair to both the public at large and to the species itself to sit idly and let extirpation occurwhen parks are funded by tax dollars?We reviewed the policy and scientific processes that have driven this species to extinction in Canada’s oldest and flagship national park in an effort to provide proactive solutions to potential extinctions in protected areas. Clearly, caribou in Banff or pronghorn (Antilcapra americana) in Berger’s (2003) case are not the only species living in national parks that face risks in North America or globally.
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