Canadians Willing to Fund More to National Parks, Researcher Finds

October 24, 2007 - News Release

Canadians are willing to pay more out of their own pockets to preserve national parks, a new study by a University of Guelph researcher has revealed.

In a first-ever survey examining the economic value placed on Canada's national parks by the general population, Will Wistowsky found that 61 per cent of Canadian households were willing to contribute additional funds to help maintain and complete Canada's national park system.

When people were asked how much more they'd be willing to pay, the average amount was $53 per household, with 47 per cent saying they'd be willing to contribute that amount annually.

Multiply that amount by the Canadian population and it adds up to $374 million in one-time funding plus an annual benefit of $176 million.

"This shows how much all Canadians – both park visitors and non-visitors – value their national parks," said Wistowsky, a doctoral student in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development.

Although his research is not intended to put a price tag on national parks, dollar figures allow officials to talk about the benefits of national parks in comparable and concrete terms, he said.

Previous studies have looked at the value of national parks based on gate receipts, said Wistowsky. But that puts pressure on the parks to focus on boosting revenues by increasing the number of users, which will come at the expense of environmental damage.

"This shows how much Canadians value their national parks regardless of whether they visit them."

Despite Canada having one of the world's oldest national park systems, there is little information on their actual economic value to Canadian society, said Wistowsky.

His findings are based on questions added to Parks Canada's 2005 national public opinion poll. He was able to survey more than 1,300 respondents.

When asked why they would contribute more, a majority of people said they wanted these areas protected and available for future generations, said Wistowsky.

Although a majority of Canadians were willing to pay more to preserve the parks, he found the economic value placed on national parks differed slightly among provinces.

People in Ontario and Alberta were willing to contribute the most to preserving parks (an average of $57), whereas those surveyed in British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan would contribute the least (an average of $46).

Likewise, the younger the respondent, the more money he or she was willing to pay. Twenty-year-olds would pay $58, and 80-year-olds would pay $47.

Despite these differences, an overwhelming majority of respondents -- about 70 per cent -- strongly supported the federal government using tax dollars to maintain and protect national parks, said Wistowsky.

"Knowing the value of national parks to Canadians and the factors that influence this value is important when it comes to making informed decisions about the management of these areas today and for future generations."

Will Wistowsky
School of Environmental Design and Rural Development

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, 519-824-4120, Ext. 56982.

University of Guelph
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Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1