Toronto – Today CPAWS Wildlands League released a blueprint for how the new Ontario government can meet the international target of permanently protecting 17% of its land and freshwater by 2020. The blueprint is found in the annual parks report titled, What’s Next: Parks and Protected Areas to 2020 and Beyond.

“For more than a decade, there has been little work done to expand the protected areas system in Ontario which protects our rich natural heritage. Currently, only 10.7% of the province is protected,” says Janet Sumner, Executive Director of Wildlands League and co-chair of the National Advisory Panel.

photo by Joe Crowley. Blanding's Turtle
Blanding’s Turtle by Joe Crowley

“From the Monarch Butterfly, Wood Turtle and Barn Owl of my youth to Lake Sturgeon, Wolverine and Beluga Whale— all need much more done to protect them,” Sumner added.

The group states that the last significant expansion of protection was in 1999 by then Premier, Mike Harris, through the Ontario Living Legacy Initiative. Wildlands League hopes the new government will make expanding Ontario’s protected areas system a priority as 2020 is fast approaching.

“There are steps the province could take right away including protecting the North French River,” says Anna Baggio, Director, Conservation Planning for the group. “That would be an amazing gift to the planet,” Baggio added. The North French River in the Moose Cree homeland contains intact boreal forests and wetlands that provide habitat for boreal caribou, migratory birds and aquatic species such as brook trout. Its wetlands act as a giant carbon sink for the planet and you can still drink directly from the river.

The North French River in northeastern Ontario.

The report includes 7 recommendations for specific actions for the new Ontario government. In addition to the North French River, the Ontario government could finally move logging out of Algonquin Park, protect more wetlands in southern Ontario and work with Parks Canada to create National Marine Conservation Areas in the Great Lakes.

A recent opinion poll found that Canadians overwhelmingly believe protected areas are necessary and want about half of our land and sea protected for nature. The poll also found support is consistently strong across the country, and across gender, age, education level, household income or composition, and regardless of how much time is spent outdoors.

CPAWS Wildlands League is ready to work with federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments on protecting our most iconic landscapes and the wildlife that call them home.


The full report can be found here.

For interviews, contact Anna Baggio, Director of Conservation Planning, 416-453-3285 mobile


Canada was the first industrialized country to sign onto the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), an international agreement signed by over 195 countries worldwide. In 2010, as a party to the CBD, Canada pledged to take certain actions to safeguard biodiversity, including protecting at least 17% of the country’s lands and inland waters by 2020. Protecting nature is one of the best proven solutions to slowing the biodiversity crisis.

For 50 years, Wildlands League has been working with all levels of government, and other partners to protect Canada’s natural world. We are uniquely positioned to help governments protect what nature really needs.

Protected areas are important to conserve wildlife and wilderness, as well as provide clean air and water for all Canadians, store carbon, and play a major role in improving our health and well-being. They also make economic sense. Protected areas around the world generate US$600 billion per year in direct spending, while costing less than US$10 billion per year to manage.

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