Parks PM proposes Arctic parks
RANKIN INLET (OCT 21/96) - Parks in Wager Bay and northern Bathurst Island are one step closer to reality.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced last week that two vast tracts of Arctic wilderness will be withdrawn from industrial development pending negotiations with area Inuit to make them into parks.

The two areas - Wager Bay on the west coast of Hudson Bay and northern Bathurst Island in the High Arctic - will be protected from prospecting or the staking of mining claims for three years.

A land withdrawal is the first formal action taken by the federal government to freeze the land and protect it for a National Park site.

Wager Bay is home to eight-metre high tides and is inhabited by a plethora of wildlife, including polar bears, beluga, walrus and narwhal.

Paul Kaludjak, president of the Kivalliq Inuit Association, said every community in the region must give the park the thumbs up before it goes ahead.

"We're looking at making sure the communities get benefits from the park," Kaludjak said.

Inuit want to make sure they are involved in such tourist matters as guiding, hiking and promote traditional camps and activities within the park.

Before discussions ensue, the KIA has to appoint several officers to deal with boundary issues and come up with a proper management plan.

An environmental impact study into how the land will be used also has to be completed.

Kaludjak said the parks probably won't see the light of day for at least three year, the same amount of time the federal government has decided to protect the land from industrial development.

The proposed park for northern Bathurst Island, the home of the Peary caribou and muskox, isn't nearly as metropolitan as Wager Bay.

The nearest community to the isolated, mainly uninhabited island is Resolute, about 200 kilometres southeast on Little Cornwallis Island.

Arctic parks usually don't have much in the way of facilities, but northern Bathurst Island would be an exception because it already has a lodge that attracts several hundred visitors annually.

Tourists who come are as likely to be foreigners as Canadians.

However, environmentalists say the main purpose of the parks is to protect nature, not to generate tourism.

(With files from CP)