Canada last among G7 countries in land protection, but improved performance possible
July 24, 2017
ALBERTA – In its latest annual report on the state of protected areas in Canada, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is calling Canada out for ranking dead last among G7 countries in the percentage of land and freshwater protected for nature. CPAWS’ 2017 report “From Laggard to Leader,” encourages federal, provincial, and territorial governments to step up their protection efforts in order to conserve Canada’s natural heritage, and deliver on our international commitment.
With only 10.6% of our landscape currently protected, Canada lags behind the global average of 15%, and trails other large countries such as China, Brazil, and Australia. In 2010, under the United National Convention on Biological Diversity, part of a worldwide effort to stem the tide of biodiversity loss, Canada committed to protecting at least 17% of land and inland waters by 2020, and to more effectively conserve nature by improving the quality of their protected area systems.
Alberta currently stands at 12.5% protection. While the province has recently made progress by creating the Castle Wildland and Provincial Parks, we still have a ways to go in order to achieve representative protection of our unique ecosystems, from Grasslands to Boreal Forest. “We need to act now if we are to meet the 2020 deadline,” says Kecia Kerr, Executive Director with CPAWS Northern Alberta chapter, “fortunately, much work has already been done across Canada and in Alberta to identify candidate protected areas. Our Parks report highlights key places across the country that will make strides towards the 17% goal, while conserving important natural areas. “
Protected areas are important for conserving wildlife and wilderness. They provide clean air and water for all Canadians, store carbon, and play a major role in improving our health and well-being. Protected areas also make economic sense, as around the world they generate US$600 billion in direct spending, while costing less than US$10 billion to create and manage. In addition, protected areas provide space for Albertans to enjoy our amazing wilderness.
“Albertan’s love their wilderness, and clearly want to protect it,” says Katie Morrison, Conservation Director with CPAWS Southern Alberta chapter “More than 70 percent of Albertans recreate outdoors, and 88% of Albertans want to see more wilderness protected. We have a great opportunity to build our protected areas network in the province.”
The report highlights that Canadian governments are finally starting to take this commitment seriously after years of inaction. In February 2017, federal, provincial, and territorial Ministers, co-lead by Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks and the Federal Minister for Environment and Climate Change Canada, publicly announced their commitment to work together and achieve this target. A new Pathway to 2020 process was initiated, and an Indigenous Circle of Experts and National Advisory Panel appointed to advise Ministers on this work.
The area highlighted in the report for Alberta is the Bighorn Backcountry. “The Bighorn Backcountry, covers over 6,700 square kilometers of Alberta’s wilderness that is not only home to several at-risk species, but is also an outdoor recreationist’s paradise and the source of nearly 90% of water for over 1 million Albertans,” says Kerr. “It is the perfect opportunity for immediate protection and will be a significant contribution to meeting our 17% commitment.”
“However we can’t stop there,” Morrison adds “Alberta’s protected area system lacks representation of several important eco-regions. We are urging the province to increase protection of grassland, parkland, and foothills habitat.”
For over 50 years, CPAWS has been working with all levels of government and other partners across Alberta to protect more of our public lands. As the only nationwide charity dedicated to the protection of our public lands and water, we are uniquely positioned to help governments plan for what nature really needs. CPAWS Annual Parks report shows the next step in protecting our beautiful province.
For interviews, contact:
Kecia Kerr, Executive Director CPAWS Northern Alberta, 780 328 3780 Ext. 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Morrison, Conservation Director, CPAWS Southern Alberta, 403-232-6686, email@example.com