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Old black and white photo of Mabel Frances Whittemore in a canoe

Mabel Frances Whittemore: the inspiration for what would become Nature Canada

Nature Canada is the oldest nature conservation organization in Canada. Reginald Whittemore founded what would eventually become Nature Canada in 1939 when he launched the magazine Canadian Nature. The magazine was published in honour of Reginald’s late wife, Mabel Frances — an educator and nature lover whose main goal in life was to share her passion for nature with others.

Since then, we have been connecting Canadians to nature, instilling within each of us a respect for nature, an appreciation for its wonders, and a will to act in nature’s defense.

We have grown to become a national organization with more than 45,000 members and supporters and a network of more than 350 naturalist organizations operating in every province across Canada at the local, regional and provincial levels.

A few brief highlights from our past:

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In February 2010, the governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador announced that over 13,000 square kilometres of boreal habitat in eastern Canada will be preserved through the establishment of Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve and a waterway provincial park to protect the Eagle River. Nature Canada worked with First Nations and governments at all three levels for the establishment of the Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve for more than 15 years.Nature Canada, with partners Historica Dominion Institute and Parks Canada, launches My Parks Pass. More than 400,000 Grade 8 students across Canada are given a free family pass to national parks and national historic sites administered by Parks Canada.Nature Canada worked with Birdlife International partner, Haiti Audubon Society, and local leaders in the communities surrounding Macaya National Park in western Haiti, to protect critical habitat for Canadian breeding birds like the Bicknell’s Thrush. A school was built, offering free admission for students in exchange for a family’s commitment to conserve vulnerable habitat inside the National Park and end unsustainable practices such as clear cutting.Calling for sustainable development of the North, Nature Canada convinced the Joint Review Panel conducting an environmental assessment of the Mackenzie Gas Project, to include key recommendations to protect bird habitat.Nature Canada, in collaboration with David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice and Environmental Defence, releases Canada’s Species at Risk Act: Implementation at a Snail’s Pace, which offers practical steps to strengthen Canada’s most important wildlife protection act.The Important Bird Area Caretakers Network, a nationwide initiative to recruit volunteers to watch over and protect IBAs in their community, expanded to seven provinces. The Caretaker Network is a joint effort between regional partners across the country and two national partners, Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada.The Green Budget Coalition (GBC), founded and hosted by Nature Canada since 1999, released its priority for the federal government’s 2011 budget, which focuses on a conservation plan for Canada, energy efficiency and freshwater resources, as well as a suite of subsidy reform measures.


A government-appointed panel recommends against granting a permit to EnCana to drill inside Suffield National Wildlife Area and imposes strict conditions on future plans. Nature Canada continues to work to ensure that drilling is permanently prohibited inside Suffield and all NWAs.Nature Canada and our boreal forest campaign partners submit the Save Our Boreal Birds petition to parliament, bearing over 60,000 signatures from 117 countries calling for protecting at least 50% of the boreal forest and supporting sustainable development practices in the remaining areas.Ian Davidson joins Nature Canada as the new Executive Director.Two federal court cases rule in favour of species protection for the endangered Greater Sage-Grouse and the Nooksack Dace and require the government to identify critical habitat in Species at Risk recovery strategies.

The Canadian Important Bird Area Caretakers Network launches.


A milestone is passed; 50,000 children participate in the Parks and People Program.

Nature Canada provides testimony in defense of conserving Kendall Island Bird Sanctuary during hearings examining the Mackenzie Gas Project.

Nature Canada completes a scientific review of a proposed recovery strategy for the endangered Greater Sage-Grouse; the review becomes the basis for a lawsuit against the federal government that argues ineffective enforcement of species legislation was threatening extinction for the grouse.

Nature Canada completes a project in Paraguay to improve the lives of Paraguayans and the birds that depend on Paraguay’s Atlantic Forest.

One million hectares of western Lake Superior become Canada’s first National Marine Conservation Area. Nature Canada’s hard work in getting the National Marine Conservation Areas Act passed made this historic event possible.

Nature Canada, along with other leading environmental groups, releases a roadmap for action on today’s most pressing conservation issues, called Tomorrow Today: How Canada can make a World of Difference.

After 16 years of dedicated service to Nature Canada, Julie Gelfand steps down as president.


A three-year project with BirdLife partners in Mexico and Panama comes to a close.

Nature Canada begins a campaign calling on the government to implement a climate plan that effectively reduces all major Canadian sources of greenhouse gases, re-commits Canada to the Kyoto Protocol, and puts in place regulations that set absolute emissions targets for industrial polluters.

Nature Canada releases its three-year review of the Species at Risk Act, with recommendations on improving implementation and enforcement of the Act.

Nature Canada serves legal notice to the Environment Minister for failing to protect two plants in danger of immediate extinction; the Minister enters into direct negotiations to resolve the issue.

Nature Canada sues the federal government over its failure to identify critical habitat for the endangered Piping Plover. The government announces it will produce a new recovery strategy.

The federal government agrees to commit funds to establish Canada’s first marine wildlife area at Scott Islands Provincial Park, after three years of advocacy on this issue by Nature Canada.

Nature Canada joins the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework, which, among other things, calls for at least 50% of the Boreal Forest to be protected.


Nature Canada launches a national campaign to protect Suffield National Wildlife Area from expanded gas drilling operations, and successfully forces public hearings into proposed development plans inside the protected area.

Nature Canada begins a comprehensive consultation of the Canadian Nature Network, in order to prepare a strategic plan that will marshal our collective efforts on behalf of nature conservation.

Nature Canada helps advance the potential expansion of Waterton Lakes National Park by providing technical expertise to officials from B.C.’s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

Nature Canada joins several leading environmental organizations to file a legal petition asking the federal government to protect Alberta’s remaining Woodland Caribou.

Nature Canada launches an online community that quickly grows to more than 10,000 people by year’s end. Web community members share their passion for nature with ecards, nature photography and poetry, and raise their collective voices by participating in online letter-writing campaigns.


After many years of hard work, Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve, Canada’s 42nd national park, is established in northern Labrador.

Several oil and gas companies propose to launch the Mackenzie Gas Project, a massive pipeline that, among other things, would destroy Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Nature Canada begins a years-long campaign to prevent approval of the project.

Nature Canada produces its first national report card on the federal government’s implementation of the Species at Risk Act.

Nature Canada advocates strongly for the passage of Bill C-15, legislation that would reduce the effects of chronic oil pollution by holding shipping companies accountable if they illegally dump bilge oil in Canadian waters. Bill C-15 becomes law in May 2005.

Nature Canada calls for the creation of the Scott Islands Marine Wildlife Area.

Japan’s Princess Takamado, honorary president of BirdLife International, pays a formal visit to Nature Canada’s office.

Nature Canada launches the Parks and People Program, aimed at recruiting the next generation of environmental stewards by bringing youth into nature. More than 14,000 children visited a natural space in the first year of the program.


The Canadian Nature Federation (CNF) becomes Nature Canada and launches a new look and strategic plan.

We begin a year-long celebration of our 65th birthday.With 40,000 individual supporters (members and donors), we raise a trusted voice on the national stage for the Nature Network—for 10 provincial affiliates, 107 member organizations and 249 other nature clubs.


CNF welcomes the much-anticipated announcement of the establishment of Ukkusiksalik (Wager Bay) National Park in Nunavut. Jackie Krindle, our past chair, attends the signing ceremony in Iqaluit.

The Prime Minister’s pledge to create 10 new national parks and five new national marine conservation areas over the next five years, with $145 million in top-up funding, will increase the National Park System by 50 percent and will add 15,000 square kilometres to a new Marine Conservation Area System.

We commend a new Canada-Manitoba memorandum of understanding to work towards the creation of the Manitoba Lowlands National Park.

CNF applauds Newfoundland’s decision to build the Trans-Labrador Highway outside the heart of the proposed Mealy Mountains National Park.

CNF receives an award from Environment Minister David Anderson for our years of hard work within the Species at Risk Working Group.

The Green Budget Coalition, in which CNF plays a lead role, achieves an unprecedented success when 50 per cent of their recommendations are implemented in the February 2003 federal budget, which commits $3 billion towards environmental protection and climate change, including $74 million for the park recommendations.

With the coming into force of the Species at Risk Act (SARAon June 5, Canada’s grey whales, tiger salamanders, cucumber trees, mudpuppy mussels, whooping cranes and the other 228 species at risk are now protected under the new law.

Support from the Canadian International Development Agency’s Environment and Sustainable Development Program enables CNF to collaborate with partners
in Mexico, Panama and Paraguay
 to build community-based development projects compatible with conservation objectives.

CNF’s report Conserving Wildlife on a Shoestring Budget concludes that illegal poaching, resource development, the presence of toxic chemicals, climate change, and grossly inadequate funding (only 15 cents per hectare) are threatening Canada’s system of national wildlife areas (NWAs) and migratory bird sanctuaries (MBSs).

CNF plays a lead role in a complaint to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation regarding the federal government’s failure to enforce the Migratory Birds Convention Act against forestry operations in Ontario. In partnership with the forestry industry and Environment Canada we identify effective means of ensuring compliance with the act.

CNF helps support 23 community groups in their efforts to protect globally significant bird habitat at important bird areas (IBA) across Canada. Over the past three years our IBA Community Action Fund has helped facilitate bird conservation in more than 120 communities throughout Canada with an estimated 25,000 volunteer hours devoted to education, research and habitat restoration.

We help 31 communities improve local land-use decision making through the Canadian Community Monitoring Network.


The Wildlands Campaign takes a leading role to strengthen and pass new legislation to enable the creation of national marine conservation areas in Canada.

CNF establishes a ground presence in Labrador and maintains its strong voice in Ottawa to promote the establishment of Mealy Mountains National Park and the interim protection of proposed park lands.

CNF mobilizes public opposition to the development of inappropriate tourism facilities bordering the unique and sensitive sand dune ecosystems in PEI National Park’s Greenwich Adjunct.

In June 2002 the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) passes through the House of Commons after an eight-year campaign waged by environmental groups.

CNF partners with the JW McConnell Family Foundation to provide teachers with quality environmental education programs—the FrogWatch Teacher’s Guide (grades 7-12) and Species at Risk Kit (grades 3-7)—to Canadian teachers free of charge.

Following on the success of the FrogWatch program, we continue our partnership with Environment Canada’s Ecological monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN) and add three new NatureWatch programs: WormWatch, IceWatch, and PlantWatch.


CNF partners with the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and local groups as part of the Carden Coalition for Responsible Planning and successfully opposes a quarry development that would harm important habitat within Ontario’s Carden Plain IBA.

We work with international partners and community groups to monitor the Jessica oil spill off the Galapagos Islands.

CNF helps break a log jam in negotiations for a draft agreement on the boundaries of the proposed Wager Bay national park.

CNF serves on the advisory committee for the Ministerial Roundtable on Ecological Integrity of Canada’s National Parks and publishes an influential list of the “10 Most Endangered National Parks.”

CNF produces an in-depth Species at Risk education guide for grades 3-7 and distributes 20,000 copies of the poster to classrooms across Canada. Through Project FeederWatch, a partnership with Bird Studies Canada, CNF turns backyard birdwatching into valuable research.


CNF teams up with Environmental Canada’s Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN) to launch FrogWatch, a nationwide volunteer program to help scientists monitor the effects of climate change on the environment.

We select 93 IBAs for conservation planning—from Scott Islands, BC, to Bird Island, NS. Stakeholder activity was already ongoing at 76 of these sites.

CNF spearheads the formation of the Green Budget Coalition to ensure the federal budget includes funds for environmental protection. In 2000 more than $700 million of new environmental spending was announced, the most significant amount since the Green Plan in the late 1980s.

CNF is instrumental in getting the National Parks Act (Bill C-27) passed in October 2000 after submissions to both the House and Senate committees responsible for the bill and work with Senators and MPs to ensure its timely passage before an election was called. This bill provides formal legal protection to six national parks including Grasslands, Gros Morne, Wapusk, Aulavik, Sirmilik, and Pacific Rim.

CNF is rewarded for its efforts to establish Torngat Mountains national park when then premier Brian Tobin confirms that the provincial government and the Labrador
Inuit Association had reached agreement on interim measures to protect lands for a proposed national park reserve in the Torngat Mountains area.

Although CNF successfully wins a Federal Court order to re-open the Cheviot mine hearings, the Joint Federal and Provincial Panel approves the Cheviot project for a second time. However, during the three-year delay caused by the legal proceedings, coal prices decrease and investors who originally backed the open-pit coal mine project adjacent to Jasper National Park withdraw their financial commitments.



CNF and Bird Studies Canada identify more than 1,125 potential important bird areas in Canada.CNF successfully advocates an amendment to the Parks Canada Agency Act, which now states that it is in the national
interest to manage park visitor use and tourism so as to maintain the ecological integrity of all national parks.CNF wins the appeal of the Cheviot Mine court case The Federal Court strikes down federal authorization of the Cheviot mine, rules that the project’s environmental assessment was incomplete, and that the proposed mine, in destroying harlequin duck nesting areas, is illegal under the Migratory Birds Convention Act.


CNF joins The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited, and World Wildlife Fund in launching Natural Legacy 2000 a nationwide initiative to conserve wildlife and habitats on private and public lands. Natural Legacy 2000 receives $10 million in funding from the Government of Canada’s Millennium Partnership Program. From the fund $125,000 is invested directly into CNF’s bird protection activities.CNF successfully advocates expansion of the proposed Manitoba Lowlands national park boundaries to include several areas of conservation priority and successfully opposes construction of an all-weather road through the park.CNF successfully advocates strengthening of Nova Scotia’s Endangered Species Act when our recommendations to the provincial parliament see the legislation improved by the requirement to implement recovery plans.CNF successfully campaigns for interim protection of the proposed Torngat Mountains national park pending the conclusion of park negotiations.CNF successfully opposes plans to reduce the size of Canada’s newest national park, Tuktut Nogait, NWT.


CNF, working with the Canadian Endangered Species Coalition, releases the first annual report card on cross-country implementation of the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.

More than 60,000 Canadians participate in CNF’s national Lady Beetle Survey. CNF helps obtain official extirpated status for the Karner blue butterfly, the first butterfly to be listed by the Committee for the Status of Endangered Species in Canada (COSEWIC).


The Oceans Act receives royal assent after two years of advocacy efforts by CNF and the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee.

CNF and Bird Studies Canada celebrate the federal Environment Minister’s declaration of Long Point, Ontario, as Canada’s first globally significant important bird area (IBA).

Federal and provincial ministers respond to the Canadian Endangered Species Coalition’s campaign and agree to a National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. CNF is lead partner in the coalition.

CNF and its BirdLife International partner, Bird Studies Canada, launch the Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program.


CNF and the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee release Seas the Day: A Marine Conservation Strategy for Canada.

CNF, Metro Toronto Zoo, Norfolk Field Naturalists, and Toledo Zoo develop and implement the Karner blue butterfly recovery plan.


CNF and five other conservation groups form the Canadian Endangered Species Coalition and launch a national campaign for federal endangered species legislation.

Thanks to CNF’s efforts COSEWIC broadens its mandate to include consideration of invertebrate and non-vascular plant species.


CNF, the Canadian Museum of Nature, and the Mexican organization Monarca launch their joint monarch butterfly educational project “Monarca.”


CNF works with legislators to pass amendments to the National Parks Act and release the federal government action plan to complete the National Park System by the year 2000.

CNF and the Canadian Wildlife Service launch the Endangered Plants and Invertebrates in Canada (EPIC) Program.


CNF completes the report A Protected Areas Vision for Canada.

CNF campaigns successfully for the withdrawal of lands from commercial development within the boundaries of the
proposed North Baffin Island national park.



CNF helps found the Committee on Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife (RENEW) and publishes RENEW’s first annual report. CNF representatives are appointed to three recovery teams.Nature Canada magazine wins three North American awards of merit.CNF, in cooperation with a national task force, authors a working draft of the National Wildlife Policy for Canada.


The Grasslands Trust Fund is launched as a cooperative venture of CNF, The Nature Conservancy of Canada, and the Canadian Parks Service.


CNF premiers its video Save South Moresby Caravan Documentary.


CNF is a founding member of the Canadian Coalition on Acid Rain.


CNF officially opens the 57-hectare Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary near Edmonton, Alberta.



CNF membership reaches 20,000.


CNF helps found the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and participates in its first meeting.


CNF and World Wildlife Fund (Canada) co-sponsor the first national Conference on Threatened Species and Habitats. CNF publishes Canada’s Threatened Species and Habitats, documenting the proceedings of the conference, in 1977.


The Canadian Audubon Society expands its mandate and becomes the Canadian Nature Federation (CNF).



The Letters Patent is received for the Canadian Audubon Society, making it an independent Canadian organization.



A strong advocacy component is introduced to Canadian Audubon’s editorial policy.


Canadian Nature magazine is revised, expanded, and renamed Canadian Audubon.


Exemplifying its new advocacy role, the Audubon Society of Canada presents a submission to the Fish and Game Committee of the Ontario legislature criticizing provincial legislation which allows the killing of hawks and owls, and demands legal protection for these birds.


The Audubon Society of Canada diversifies its activities from the former concentration on youth, altering the appeal of its publication and programs to adults.


The Audubon Society of Canada publishes Conservation and Nature Activities, a collection of the best Canadian Nature articles.



The Audubon Society of Canada is established.


Canadian Nature begins to enroll students in Audubon Junior clubs.



Reginald Whittemore founds Canadian Nature magazine in memory of his late wife, Mabel Frances Whittemore.

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