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A similar situation exists in Quebec’s Gaspé region, where there has been an influx of tourists — some of whom are pitching tents on public beaches and on fragile wetlands — and the province has deployed le Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force, to help maintain order among travellers. In some places, there have been huge spikes in demand.
In Nunavut, where many are staying home because of travel restrictions in and out of the province, reports say Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park, near Iqaluit, has already seen 1,000 visitors, compared to 400 last year. Staff are emptying trash twice a day, whereas in previous years, it happened only a few times per week, CBC reported.
Provinces have encouraged residents to get outdoors and enjoy nature. “Rediscover our parks or take advantage of the outdoor activities you already know and love,” Manitoba’s conservation and climate minister Sarah Guillemard has said. British Columbia has issued permits to six provincial parks, part of a pilot program “intended to help BC Parks re-open busy areas and test the passes as a tool to manage overcrowding” that can have both environmental and health impacts.
There are several concomitant issues caused by overuse of natural areas that go beyond the risks posed by lackadaisical social distancing and other problems of the COVID-19 pandemic era. Human waste, if not packed out or buried properly, makes a mess. Garbage is an attractant to animals; many things humans don’t consider food, including toothpaste, can also attract animals.
People are being encouraged to be respectful and practice a “leave no trace” philosophy while out in nature.
Haberl says to think of exploring nature this way: “I’m a visitor and they’re a local and I want to be on my best behaviour when I go into (the animals’) house.”
With files from The Canadian Press