New Thinking Needed to Conserve Canada’s Wildlife and Ecosystems

By Mike Wilson and John Lounds

Despite the abundant wildlife and ecosystems in Canada’s North, nature is facing an alarming decline in southern Canada.

Habitat loss and fragmentation have resulted in significant loss of wildlife, leading to declines in many species that were once common, such as the Greater sage-grouse and the American bumblebee. Current approaches won’t be sufficient to ensure that humans and wildlife can thrive on a shared planet.

In recent years, we’ve seen a bold new vision for the coexistence and flourishing of humans and wildlife on Earth. A growing movement of scientists, conservationists, policymakers and business leaders are calling for governments to set aside 30 per cent of their land and waters by 2030, with the long-term goal of achieving sustainable land management and nature conservation across all our landscapes and seascapes. Traditional approaches to conservation are essential in achieving this vision, but without new thinking they are not enough to meet these goals and solve the towering challenges before us.

The threats facing our wildlife and ecosystems are staggering.

A Global Assessment Report released earlier this month by the UN Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services estimated that one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. And despite the abundant wildlife and ecosystems in Canada’s North, nature is facing an alarming decline in southern Canada. Habitat loss and fragmentation have resulted in significant loss of wildlife, leading to declines in many species that were once common, such as the Greater sage-grouse and the American bumblebee.

@ Viv Lynch

Canada and other countries are attempting to turn these trends around. Nations signed on to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets in 2010, under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Canada and other signatories committed to protect at least seventeen percent of their terrestrial areas and inland waters, and 10 percent of their marine and coastal areas by 2020.

We have seen inspiring efforts to make good on this pledge. Recently, the Government of Canada hosted the Nature Summit, a global gathering of leaders from governments, Indigenous nations, business and civil society to set an ambitious, post-2020 agenda for conservation. The summit saw a raft of new announcements for nature protection in Canada, such as formally protecting the Laurentian Whale Passage and establishing strict new standards for marine protected areas. This is in addition to the historic $1.3-billion investment in nature conservation initiatives that the 2018 budget committed to over five years.

A Shift in Thinking is Needed To Meet Our Goals

While we are getting closer to meeting our 2020 Aichi targets, this is just the beginning to achieving a sustainable society, and more ambitious action and results are needed. To meet the bold 30 per cent by 2030 targets proposed by scientists, we need to kick-start a shift in thinking on nature conservation. While governments have led conservation in the past, new thinking for nature must also bring together the collective efforts of businesses, Indigenous nations, communities and civil societies to build the foundation of a sustainable future.

Ensuring that ecosystems and wildlife can thrive alongside humans, now and in the future, means that we must broaden our idea of conservation. An expanded notion of conservation encompasses stewardship and protection measures in the landscapes and seascapes where Canadians work, live and play—such as urban areas, agricultural lands, and coastal fishing economies—as well as the ecologically intact protected areas that traditionally come to mind. This ‘new thinking’ for nature conservation does not displace traditional motivations and approaches to conservation, but instead ‘grows the tent’ by showing how conservation helps address many important challenges our country is facing.

New Thinking For Nature Needs to Attract Broad Coalitions of Unlikely Allies

It will involve working with public and mental health advocates to establish urban green spaces that help reduce stress and mental illness. Collaborating with municipalities to quantify how natural infrastructure— such as wetlands and floodplains—can cost-effectively deliver essential services such as flood prevention while helping us adapt to climate change. Demonstrating to industries as diverse as insurance, tourism, retail, and natural resources that nature conservation and sustainable resource management can lower business risks and lead to new innovation and investment opportunities. Most importantly, it means fostering nation-to-nation relationships with Indigenous peoples so that they are empowered to manage wildlife and protected areas on their traditional territories.

Imagining these new approaches to nature conservation is vital to realizing a shared vision of a Canada in which people and wildlife can flourish together.

Mike Wilson is executive director of Smart Prosperity Institute. John Lounds is president & CEO of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Rick Bates is executive vice-president and CEO of the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

Reprinted with permission from The Hill Times: 5/27/2019 New thinking needed to conserve Canada’s wildlife and ecosystemsThe Hill Times

What Canada’s budget means for our oceans and freshwater

The Canadian Wildlife Federation welcomes the federal government’s investments in ocean protection, freshwater conservation, and the management of aquatic invasive species.

However, CWF continues to urge governments to address and prioritize conservation issues for the health, economic, social and spiritual well-being of Canadians.

Canada is surrounded by three mighty oceans and has the longest coastline in the world (over 200,000 kilometres). So we were pleased to see the federal government follow-through on its previously announced investment in the Oceans Protection Plan.

The $1.5 billion under the Oceans Protection Plan will support marine animals by restoring Canada’s marine ecosystems, improving marine safety, and creating stronger partnerships with indigenous and coastal communities.

Did you know? There are more than 33 species of whale, 11 species of seals and sea lions, and four species of turtles found in Canada’s oceans. Seventeen of these animals are listed under the Species at Risk Act.

Canadians share a deep historical connection to freshwater; we rely on it for transportation, for resources, for employment, for food and for recreation. Yet, a growing number of threats are jeopardizing the long-term use of our lakes, rivers and wetlands. The government’s five-year commitment of $70.5 million for freshwater conservation is a step forward, but significant investments are still needed. As it stands, more than 60 species of freshwater fish are listed under the Species at Risk Act. Many other plants and animals are at risk of losing their natural habitat.

Aquatic invasive species are a serious threat to our waters. Regardless of whether they are introduced accidentally or intentionally, once they become established they are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate. These invasive species are also expensive to control. The $43.8 million over the next five years will help minimize the impacts of invasive species like Asian carp and zebra mussels.

Did you know? Canada has nearly two million lakes and contains seven per cent of the world’s renewable freshwater.

CWF continues to encourage governments to address critical issues

  • Reducing impacts on biodiversity as part of the next agriculture policy framework, expected in 2018
  • Significantly increasing investments in freshwater conservation
  • Supporting programs that prioritize managing wildlife and protecting habitat as an important mechanism for adapting to climate change

Please note that today is the last day to comment on the federal government’s proposal to ban the neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid. If you would like to support the ban, visit the website for the Pest Management Regulatory Agency Publications Section and post your thoughts on the Proposed Re-evaluation Decision PRVD2016-20.

» Click here to support the ban

Ontario Steps in to Save Renowned Freshwater Research Station

Man-Kay Koon from Vancouver, BC

The Premier of Ontario announced that her government would support the operation of the Experimental Lakes Area for this year, allowing concerned Canadians to breathe a sigh of relief about the health of our freshwater ecosystems.  Funding for the research station had been cut by the federal government, putting an end to the generation of critical new knowledge about the effects of pollution on Canada’s freshwater lakes.  The Canadian Wildlife Federation has been very concerned about what this would mean for the future of environmental protection in Canada. We lent our support to maintain funding for the research station.  So we are extremely happy to see that Ontario has stepped into a national leadership role to fill the gap left by the federal government.  This is good news for Canadians, freshwater and the wildlife that calls it home.

[MAN-KAY KOON FROM VANCOUVER, BC FROM THE REFLECTIONS OF NATURE PHOTO CONTEST]