A backcountry visitor impact management strategy for Riding Mountain National Park

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Toews, Valerie
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Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP) provides visitors with over 500 kilometres of maintained trails in the park's backcountry. The trails are used for hiking, cycling and horse travel. Over 200 kilometres of trails are maintained in the winter for cross-country ski use. There are 21 backcountry campsites along the trail system (Riding Mountain National Park 1998). Parks Canada's Guiding Principles and Operational Policies (Parks Canada 1994a) states that the primary mandate of national parks is to preserve ecological integrity. It also states that the national parks will allow appropriate visitor activities. RMNP's Management Plan (RMNP Round Table 1996) and Ecosystem Conservation Plan (Parks Canada 1997a) echo these objectives and further specify that the park will manage its backcountry to maintain both ecological integrity and visitor experience. RMNP management recognizes that visitor use of the park's backcountry may jeopardize the integrity of both the resources and visitor experience and that a strategy of preventing, monitoring, measuring and mitigating backcountry visitor impacts is required. This report provides a framework for developing an ongoing backcountry visitor impact management process. Steps in the process range from assembling an interdisciplinary team to help determine the purpose and significance of the park's backcountry through to development of indicators, standards, monitoring plans and management action plans. Stakeholder involvement occurs throughout the process. The strategy involves initial implementation steps as well as ongoing monitoring. It remains flexible and will likely undergo an initial testing period and a number of revisions as monitoring reveals additional data that may signal a need for changes to indicators, standards or management actions.