Outgoing Environment Minister Leaves Legacy, Challenges

Mara Kerry, Nature Canada director of conservation,
and Jim Prentice at the Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve
announcement in February 2010

On the occasion of Jim Prentice’s departure as Canada’s Minister of the Environment, Nature Canada wishes to congratulate Mr. Prentice on his specific accomplishments and comment on the challenges his successor will face.

Nature Canada congratulates Minister Prentice for acting on his passionate support for the preservation of representative natural areas of the country. As of today, there are 42 national parks representing 28 of Canada’s 39 terrestrial regions, making the system over 70 percent complete and protecting over 300,000 square kilometres of Canada’s lands. During his tenure, Minister Prentice oversaw many conservation gains for Canada:
  • Progress was announced on no fewer than 6 new National Parks (Mealy Mountains, Northern Bathurst Island, Nááts’ihch’oh, Thaydene Nene/East Arm of Great Slave Lake, Gulf Islands and Sable Island)
  • Nahanni National Park Reserve was dramatically expanded; the government permanently protected Saoyú and Æehdacho National Historic Site of Canada on the shores of Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories
  • A Feasibility Study for National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) in Lancaster Sound, the marine “Serengeti of the north”
  • The Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve was designated around the spectacularly scenic and culturally important Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site in British Columbia. This is Canada’s first official NMCA, and combined with the adjacent National Park Reserve is a world first – a contiguous area protected from mountaintop to the bottom of the sea
  • Three new National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) were also established along the northeast coast of Baffin Island during Prentice’s time in office, as well as Environment Canada/Canadian Wildlife Service sponsorship of six candidate NWAs in the NWT.
  • Mr. Prentice also championed efforts to engage youth across the country in nature and laid the initial foundations for a longer-term initiative, My Parks Pass, that is designed to help students explore and learn about our national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas. Nature Canada is a proud partner in this program.

Mr. Prentice’s successor will face important challenges. The first will be to build on Mr. Prentice’s legacy and maintaining the momentum towards completing Canada’s systems of terrestrial and marine parks and protected areas. This will include following through on Canada’s commitment to tri-lateral cooperation with the United States and Mexico on continental wilderness conservation.

Secondly, the next Minister of the Environment will need to improve and accelerate the federal government’s performance in implementing protection for Canada’s ever-more-numerous species at risk. To date Canada has recognised over 600 species as being at risk of extinction, but has approved an action plan for recovery for only one species.
Thirdly, the next minister will face the challenge of convincing their cabinet colleagues to end the federal government’s inaction on climate change. This will require a tidal shift to policies that effectively reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, and in particular rein in the environmental impacts of the tar sands and tame Canada’s voracious energy appetite.
We wish Mr. Prentice well and we look forward to working with his successor.