Toronto – In its latest annual report released in advance of Canada Parks Day, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is calling Canada out for falling behind most other countries in protecting its land and fresh water. CPAWS’ 2015 report, Protecting Canada: Is it in our nature? assesses whether our governments are on track to meet their collective international commitment to protect at least 17% of our land and fresh water by 2020, and to improve the quality of our protected areas.
“Based on our assessment of progress since Canada endorsed the UN Convention on Biological Diversity 10-year plan in 2010, it would take us 50 years from today, not five, to meet our commitment to protect at least 17% of our land and fresh water. And 17% is only the next step we need to take towards protecting at least half to ensure Canada continues to have healthy, functioning ecosystems,” says Alison Woodley, National Director of CPAWS’ Parks Program.
“In Ontario, we’re worried about the slow pace in the past five years in establishing any new protected areas. There has been a 0.4% increase since 2011,” says Dave Pearce, Forest Conservation Manager for CPAWS Wildlands League.
“Furthermore, while Ontario’s Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act (PPCRA) is showcased internationally as an example of world leading protected areas legislation that enshrines the maintenance of ecological integrity as the first priority in management, Ontario has yet to take this commitment seriously in practice,” added Pearce.
“Incompatible activities are permitted in our parks like logging in Ontario’s flagship Algonquin or the extension of private cottage leases in Rondeau Provincial Park,” Pearce states. “Private cottages don’t belong in public parks like Rondeau in the first place. They are incompatible with the law governing parks and are at odds with protecting the endangered species that live there,” Pearce added.
CPAWS agrees with the Ontario government’s decision not to transfer lands to the federal government for a new national urban park in the Rouge Valley near Toronto until federal conservation measures are strengthened. The new federal law governing the Rouge National Urban Park fails to meet the international standard for a protected area.
Slow to no progress since 2011
CPAWS found that the current percentage of lands and inland waters protected varies dramatically across Canada, ranging from just under three percent in Prince Edward Island, to more than 15% in British Columbia. Since 2011, the area protected in Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Yukon Territory has not grown at all, and all other provinces have increased protection by less than 2%. B.C.’s progress is undermined by its 2014 Parks Act amendments that allow industrial research in parks and boundary changes to accommodate pipelines and logging.
Reasons for optimism
“Some of Canada’s provinces and territories and Indigenous communities are making impressive efforts to advance protected areas. Quebec and Ontario have committed to protecting half of their northern territories, although implementation of these commitments is very slow. Nova Scotia has ramped up efforts and appears to be on track to reach 14% protection, Manitoba has committed to creating 15 new parks and protected areas and to expanding others, and Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut all have land use planning processes underway that could lead to new, large protected areas,” says Eric Hebert-Daly, CPAWS’ National Executive Director.
At the federal level, a large new national park called Qausuittuq in Nunavut (11,000 km2) was just finalized in June, and two more could be announced within the next year. These include an area called Thaidene Nene around the East Arm of Great Slave Lake, NWT, where approximately 30,000 km2 could become a combined national and territorial park shortly. Similarly, the process for finalizing the 10,700 km2 Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve in Labrador is nearing completion, with an adjacent 3,000 km2 provincial park still at the early stages of establishment.
Local Indigenous communities are playing a significant leadership role and partnering with federal, provincial, and/or territorial governments to protect many of these large areas.
CPAWS calculates that if existing plans for creating new protected areas were implemented, along with other commitments for which specific sites have not yet been confirmed, Canada could meet its obligation to reach 17% protection by 2020.
Government leadership needed
“We’re looking for Ontario to step up to show leadership to help meet Canada’s 2020 protected area commitments. To start, they should implement indigenous communities’ proposals for protection of their lands and waters,” says Pearce.
For interviews contact:
Dave Pearce, tel: 416-971-9453 ext. 40, 416 659 4407 (cell) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Founded in 1963, CPAWS is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to protecting our public land and water, and ensuring our parks are managed to protect the nature within them.