Canada lags behind the world in land protection: CPAWS report

Vancouver, BC – In its latest annual report on the state of protected areas in Canada, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is calling upon all governments to step up efforts to meet Canada’s international commitments to protect at least 17% of land and inland waters by 2020. CPAWS’ 2017 report “From Laggard to Leader? Canada’s renewed focus on protecting nature could deliver results” calls Canada out for ranking last among G7 countries in the percentage of land and freshwater protected for conservation purposes, and encourages all governments to improve the quality of their protected area systems to more effectively conserve nature.

With only 10.6% of its landscape currently protected, Canada lags behind the global average of 15%, and also trails other large countries such as China, Brazil, and Australia. In 2010, as part of a worldwide effort to stem the tide of biodiversity loss, Canada committed under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to protecting at least 17% of land and inland waters by 2020 and improving the quality of their protected area systems to more effectively conserve nature.

The report recognizes that Canadian governments are finally starting to take this commitment seriously after years of inaction. In February 2017, federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for parks and protected areas publicly announced their commitment to work together to achieve this target. A new Pathway to 2020 process was initiated, and the Indigenous Circle of Experts and National Advisory Panel appointed to advise Ministers on this work.

“With less than 3 years to fulfill our 2020 commitment, we need to get going now,” says Eric Hébert-Daly, National Executive Director at CPAWS. “In the report we identify places across Canada where a considerable amount of work has already been done on proposed protected areas. By acting now to permanently protect these sites, while also planning for what’s needed to conserve nature in the long term, Canada has a chance to move from laggard to leader.”

In British Columbia, the grasslands of the South Okanagan-Similkameen have been identified as an immediate conservation priority. The importance of establishing a National Park Reserve in this region has long been recognized by scientists, governments, and local communities; however, it has remained a decades-long struggle to protect this globally significant landscape.

“The new BC government has an incredible opportunity to demonstrate its leadership and commitment to conservation efforts by working immediately to establish a National Park Reserve in the South Okanagan,” says Jessie Corey, Terrestrial Conservation Manager for CPAWS-BC.

“This is the biggest opportunity in nearly two decades to finally get down to business and get some much-needed federal protections for these grasslands. With First Nations support and a commitment from the federal government to see this process through, the timing has never been better,” says Corey.

In addition to identifying opportunities for new protected areas across the country, the report also notes that Canada’s protected area targets are about more than just percentage of lands and waters protected – they’re about creating a resilient network of connected, well-managed protected areas that represent the broad diversity of ecosystems found here in the province and across the country.

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.

For over 50 years, CPAWS has been working with all levels of government, and other partners across the country to protect more of Canada’s public lands. As the only nationwide charity dedicated to the protection of our public lands and water, we are uniquely positioned to help governments protect what nature really needs.


Read the full report:

For interviews, contact:
Jessie Corey, Terrestrial Conservation Manager
(604) 685-7445, ext 25