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

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

Nature Canada is the oldest national 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 80,000 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.

Each decade of our history is marked by memorable conservation milestones and victories for nature. The snapshots below represent highlights from each era of Nature Canada’s past.




 Nature Canada launches a new campaign, Keep Cats Safe and Save Birds Lives, to raise awareness of bird mortality and how we can keep both cats and birds safe from harm. The first-ever State of North America’s Birds 2016 Report was also launched this year. This report assesses the conservation status of all 1,154 bird species found in Canada, United States, and Mexico.


 Nature Canada connected more than 4,400 Canadians to nature this year, engaging them in activities that focused on nature celebration, inspiration, stewardship and observation. As well, two new National Parks were legislated and the groundwork was laid for a new National Wildlife Area in the Govenlock prairie grasslands.


 Nature Canada launches the Women for Nature initiative establishing a network of powerful and influential women across Canada who are passionate about connecting Canadians to Nature.


 Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa, proclaims May 12th to be Migratory Bird Day and IBA day. Nature Canada hosts Birdlife International World Congress in Ottawa, ON with over delegates 133 countries represented.


 Nature Canada intervenes in Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings on behalf of nature.  Our goal is protecting endangered species, species at risk and critical habitat.


 Nature Canada helps secure additional legal protection for polar bears in Canada. Environment Minister Peter Kent joins My Parks Pass opening day with youth. Nature Canada presents at ecosystems conference.


Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve was established thanks to the work by Nature Canada, First Nations and governments at all three levels for the establishment of the Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve over the past 15 years.

Nature Canada, with partners Historica Dominion Institute and Parks Canada, launches My Parks Pass, which gives 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. 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.



Nature Canada continues to work to ensure that drilling is permanently prohibited inside Suffield and all NWAs and its efforts are rewarded when 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 and its 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.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.Ian Davidson joins Nature Canada as the new Executive Director.


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. Nearly 50,000 children participate in the Parks and People Program, a Nature Canada 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. Along with other leading environmental groups, we release a roadmap for action on today’s most pressing conservation issues, called Tomorrow Today: How Canada can make a World of Difference.


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. In addition, 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. We also help 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. We also launch an online community that quickly grows to more than 10,000 people by year’s end.


After many years of hard work, Nature Canada helps establish Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve, Canada’s 42nd national park, in northern Labrador. Nature Canada begins a years-long campaign to prevent approval of the Mackenzie Gas Project, a massive pipeline that, among other things, would destroy Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary. 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. 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.

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


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


CNF’s 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 including CNF.

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. 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.

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


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. Through the Important Bird Area program, 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.



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


CNF is officially affiliated with 133 different nature organizations.  CNF’s executive director helps write the “guidelines for wildlife” policy, which is later adopted by the federal government.  CNF assists in securing political action to expand the national parks system in Canada.  CNF briefs federal panel on ways to clean up oil spills.



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 creates “Almanac” to provide information on conservation issues.


CNF puts its weight behind “South Moresby Project” seeking to protect Haida Gwaii islands (then known as The Queen Charlotte Islands). This project eventually proves successful and this critical habitat is protected for future generations.


At CNF’s 1985 conference, the federal government announces a new National park in Northern Yukon covering over 10,000 square km. The CNF urge to create a heritage park in the Admiral’s land (off of Halifax) from a couple who donated the land to CNF hoping they could save it and make a place for animals.


The CNF joins the National and Provincial Parks Association of Canada calling the federal government out on finishing the national parks up north. CNF helps kick off Acid Rain Network with American partners.


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


CNF launches campaign urging Government of Canada against build dams in the Grand Canyon Stikine River in Northern BC. CNF supports the studies on the Bowhead Whale research. CNF holds its first annual convention.


CNF and the Federation of Ontario Naturalists sponsor “Nature Tours”, helping connect Canadians to nature. CNF officially opens the 57-hectare Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary near Edmonton, Alberta.



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.


CNF sponsors the first National Exhibition Of Works by Canadian Artists.


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



His Royal Highness Prince Philip attends CNF’s 1967 annual meeting in Toronto discussing ideas to help save our wildlife before it’s too late. CNF introduces Nature Tours in North America.


Studies supported by Canadian Audubon Society finds that 10,000,000 fish were killed by normal use of pesticides.



Canadian Nature magazine is revised, expanded, and renamed Canadian Audubon. A strong advocacy component is introduced to Canadian Audubon’s editorial policy.


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 publishes Conservation and Nature Activities, a collection of the best Canadian Nature articles.



 Their first real novel ‘Canadian Nature Annual for 1949’ is published containing 64 articles, 88 full colour illustrations, 161 photographs and 141 line drawings, the price was high for the time $2.50.


The Audubon Society of Canada is established.


Canadian Nature magazine becomes sponsored by the departments of education in every province and territory in Canada.


Canadian Nature magazines are for the first time placed in certain schools in Canada for students and teachers. The magazine introduced their first ‘mascot’. His name was Bobby the Coon, a raccoon found in the wild. The magazine had fictional stories of Bobby the Coon along with cartoons and real photos. Canadian Nature magazine tries not to focus on the war, intending for the publication to be a respite from the otherwise daily wartime news.



Reginald Whittemore founds Canadian Nature magazine in memory of his late wife, Mabel Frances Whittemore. The magazine’ first two issues found great success with Canadian readers and helped launch the magazine throughout Canada. 

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