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Nature Canada launches petition campaign to protect the Deepsea
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Nature Canada launches petition campaign to protect the Deepsea

Are the underwater mountains and coral forests off the coast of British Columbia worth protecting?  On June 5, Nature Canada, CPAWS-BC and the David Suzuki Foundation hosted a free public event in Vancouver to kick off a petition campaign calling for marine protection for the Pacific Deepsea Oasis. Few Canadians are aware of this magnificent biological hot spot - an awe-inspiring landscape of underwater mountains and volcanic vents that breath life into the ocean. “As the country with the longest coastline, Canada has a major responsibility to protect oceans and all they provide,” said Gauri Sreenivasan, Campaign Director for Nature Canada. Without permanent protection, the Deepsea Oasis faces threats from commercial fishing and the emerging issue of deep-sea mining. The event on Wednesday and a new petition campaign aims to change that.

Speakers at the event included Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada marine biologist Cherisse Du Preez. “What’s happening here is very important to us,” said Sayers. “The Pacific is the foundation of our Nuu-chah-nulth culture, our society, and our economy. Our connection to the Pacific is profound.” Several First Nations whose traditional territory includes the area are in discussion with Fisheries and Oceans Canada about how to best manage the area. “We want to have a say, and that’s all part of this joint management that we’re working towards. We think it’s important to have our voices in there, to protect what is important to us,” she said. Scientist and ocean explorer Du Preez explained in her talk that most of the ocean is a muddy, dark desert, where animals sometimes have to wait months for scarce meals to come from the surface. “What’s better than living in a barren, muddy desert? How about super-heated hydrothermal vents or massive seamounts? This is our Deepsea Oasis,” she said. “These vent fields are like no other place on our planet.” The Deepsea Oasis, just four times the size of Vancouver Island, contains 46 seamounts and all of Canada’s hydrothermal vents. Du Preez explained that this unique landscape has a major effect on ocean life. “These environments don’t just make for beautiful deep sea floors - they influence the waters above them and around them for kilometres. We see increased pelagic animals like tunas, jellies, sharks, whales and dolphins surrounding these features,” she said. Canada has pledged to protect 10 per cent of marine areas by 2020, but we’re only currently at 8.27 per cent. Now is the time to ask the government for protection of the Deepsea to hit that target, but we’ll need public support. You can help! Join the campaign and speak up for nature by signing our petition.  

Is Canada’s unelected Senate indifferent to climate and biodiversity crises?
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Is Canada’s unelected Senate indifferent to climate and biodiversity crises?

Indifferent to climate and biodiversity crises? Shills for the oil and gas industry? Anti-democratic? An open letter by Nature Canada’s Stephen Hazell to Canada’s Senators argues that these will be the public perceptions of Senators if amendments proposed by the Senate Energy Committee are passed by the unelected Senate at third reading. The Energy Committee is proposing roughly 200 amendments, many of which will damage the ability of the government to gather information about impacts of proposed projects. The worst amendments would

  • Weaken Canada’s ability to consider its climate and biodiversity commitments in assessing development projects;
  • Limit assessments to studying only those environmental effects that fall within federal jurisdiction;
  • Take away assessment of new pipelines and nuclear reactors from the Impact Assessment Agency and hand the assessments back to the regulators who have failed to carry out proper assessments since 2012;  and
  • Limit public participation in impact assessment processes needed for projects to succeed.
The open letter argues that the Senate Committee misunderstood the challenges facing federal assessment, many of which are manifest in the controversial reviews of the Trans Mountain and Energy East projects. These challenges largely stem from the Harper government’s hastily enacted Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012(CEAA 2012) not Bill C-69. Bill C-69 addresses with some success the failures of CEAA 2012 by establishing a single federal assessment agency, removing legal constraints on public participation, establishing a sound constitutional footing for federal law, and providing more flexibility in legislative time frames that are impairing federal-provincial collaboration in impact assessment. The Energy Committee’s proposed amendments would exacerbate CEAA 2012’s problems and constrain federal authority to understand the ecological, social and economic impacts to allow sound decision-making. If enacted, these amendments would increase public mistrust of the process, spur litigation, and increase uncertainty for project proponents. Worst of all, the Energy Committee seems to have understood its role to be to provide legislated guarantees that major oil and gas industry projects will be approved whatever the harm to climate or nature. The very week that the House of Commons debated the climate emergency, the Energy  Committee proposed amendments that would weaken the ability of federal reviews to assess climate impacts of projects and exempt from assessment high-carbon projects such as in situ oil sands projects. The very month that a United Nations report concluded that extinction looms for one million species of plants and animals due to unsustainable human activities, the Energy Committee proposed amendments limiting the scope of environmental factors that federal reviews could assess. The open letter urges Senators to vote against the amendments proposed by the ENEV Committee. Text of the full open letter.

People’s Hearing Calls for Strong Federal Environmental Law
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People’s Hearing Calls for Strong Federal Environmental Law

Nature Canada helped host a people’s hearing on Canada’s environmental laws on May 29 in Ottawa to make sure that everyone impacted by development projects is being heard - not just big industry players. On Wednesday, folks from communities impacted by development projects the opportunities to talk about their experiences with the impact assessments of those projects in the context of Bill C-69, legislation currently being debated in the unelected Senate. Bill C-69 would reform Canada’s environmental impact assessment process and is currently being debated in the unelected Senate. Unfortunately, the Senate committee studying the bill chose to hear mainly from major industry players in its cross-country hearings in April 2019. The people's hearing was a chance for other voices to be heard. The people’s hearing heard from a panel of members of civil society, First Nations and other impacted communities whose voices have been minimized or excluded from the Senate’s study of Bill C-69. Nature Canada’s Stephen Hazell moderated the event. A few of the voices heard on Wednesday included:

  • James Herbert, the Regulatory Affairs manager of the Gitxaala Nation in British Columbia, spoke about his Nation’s concerns about the Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project and liquified natural gas projects.
  • Ole Hendrickson, representing the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area spoke about the need for environmental assessments of projects to dispose of radioactive waste from nuclear reactors at Chalk River and Rolphton, Ontario.
  • Patricia Hennessey of the Vankleek Hill and District Nature Society spoke about a proposed cement plant to be sited near the Ottawa River that would emit one million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually as well as acid gas emissions that would contaminate downwind Montreal.
  • Lindsay Telfer of the Freshwater Alliance spoke about proposed amendments to the Navigable Waters Act.
Several concerned citizens recorded their concerns on a video which was played at the hearing. The Senate committee has proposed nearly 200 amendments to Bill C-69, many of which identical to oil and gas industry submissions. These amendments would remove or significantly weaken environmental protections in the Bill. Nature Canada is calling on the full Senate to reject all 200 amendments and enact the version of Bill C-69 that was passed by the democratically-elected House of Commons. If the Senate fails to reject these amendments, Nature Canada is asking that the House of Commons do so. If you would like to learn more about Nature Canada's thoughts on Bill C-69 you can watch Stephen Hazell's presentation on Facebook here. The Senate needs to listen to Canadians, your voice can make a difference. Help protect future generations and reach out to your senators now by clicking here.

Protecting our Oceans & Marine Wildlife
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Protecting our Oceans & Marine Wildlife

In 2019, millions of people have seen the evidence of human impact on our oceans and wildlife. From turtles to whales to polar bears and sea birds, people everywhere are now seeing the devastation caused by receding ice levels, rising sea levels, warming waters, and plastic pollution. There are prominent stories of whales washing up on beaches with stomachs filled with plastic, but there are also entire islands that we could see disappear beneath the rising sea. The impact that human behaviour is having on the planet is devastating our planet in more ways that one. Individual and collective action must be taken today. Amongst all the bad news, there is still hope! There is a panoply of things everyone can do today to help protect our oceans and marine wildlife species. Here’s how to protect our oceans today!

1. Take a look at your carbon footprint, and reduce it

Individuals aren’t even close to entirely responsible for carbon emissions in the atmosphere, but we can still do better. Here are three places of opportunity to adopt habits that will make our lives less carbon intensive.
  • At home: Reduce your energy use
    • Unplug unused appliances, use power bars and turn them off at night. Wash clothes in cold water and hang to dry. Use LED light bulbs and when buying new electronics, opt for the energy-efficient option.
  • On your plate: Support local and eat seasonally
    • Buying from local farmers and eating seasonally go hand in hand. This minimizes the distance between where your food is grown and your plate and also minimizes the carbon cost of transportation from the source to the point of sale.
  • Going places: Walk, bike or opt for public transportation
    • If it is accessible, try to walk or bike anywhere within a 5 km radius of your starting point. Beyond that, opt for public transportation before driving, then buses or trains before planes. Finally, buying carbon offsets for unavoidable carbon-intensive transportation.

2. Pressure your government to take action

The Canadian government has promised us that they would double protected areas by 2020. This means that 17% of lands and inland waters and 10% of our oceans and coastal areas will be protected by the end of next year in Canada. If you want to see that happen, we need to hold them to it! Get involved in our protected areas work where YOU can help defend some of Canada's most valued ecosystems.

3. Reduce consumption of plastic & single-use items

Whenever I make a purchase, I reflect on where the item will end up when I am done using it. Here are a few tips to reduce new plastic or single-use coming into your life.
  • Refuse single-use items you don’t need.
    • For me, these items included samples at stores, pens from hotels, utensils and napkins with take-out food and any additional wrapping on items that I order online or in a store.
  • Opt for items that can rot or be recycled.
    • Materials that are compostable (non-treated paper, cardboard) or for items in tin, metal or glass before anything non-recyclable (like many plastics!).
  • Bring your own packaging.
    • This includes bags for groceries & produce, but doesn’t limit itself to food. All purchases can be carried in reusable bag.
  • Buy clothes secondhand and items made with natural fibers.
    • When we wash clothes made with synthetic fibres there are small pieces of the fibre that wash off over time, and enter our waterways. By purchasing items second-hand, we decrease demand for new items that will create micro-plastics. By purchasing clothes made with natural fibres (jute, wool, hemp, cotton, silk), we are decreasing the possible amount of micro plastics that will eventually end up in our waterways.
Nature Canada along with 30 other leading nature conservancies and environmental organizations, signed a joint Declaration on Plastics. This declaration highlights that now is the time for a national waste reduction strategy, and that it, if implemented correctly, could lead Canada to zero plastic waste by 2025. Learn more about this declaration and how groups across the country are raising awareness on plastic pollution.

For other tips to help our oceans today, visit these resources

Keeping your Birdbath Clean
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Keeping your Birdbath Clean

Why You Should Maintain your Birdbath

Maintaining a clean birdbath is essential for the health of visiting birds. Birds that bathe in the water may leave behind dirty feathers and droppings, which can make the birdbath increasingly unsanitary and filthy for other visiting birds. Dirty and stationary water also attracts mosquitoes, which can carry the West Nile virus and transmit it through their eggs, which they lay in the bath. Changing the water every day or two can help prevent the spread of diseases as well as algal growth, which forms a lot more quickly when the water is not changed frequently.

How to Maintain your Birdbath

There are many ways to ensure that your birdbath is set up correctly for the birds. Placing the bath in the shade can help keep the water cool and fresh, especially in the summer. Having the bath near feeders or woody brush and branches can provide a place for the birds to preen, however keep in mind that the birdbath should not be directly under these as the debris would get into the water. Likewise, having some running water can make the birdbath more attractive and help prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water. This will minimize the chance of disease spreading to the birds and other animals. You should ideally be changing the water in your birdbath every couple of days, and cleaning it 2 or 3 times a week, or when you begin to see some discolouration in the water. The first step in the cleaning process is to empty the bath of old water, and to remove any debris that may have fallen into the bath. Next, using a high-pressure hose, or just a normal hose, spray the bath until most of the dirt is removed. If there is any additional dirt left on the bottom, then a stiff brush or wire wool with a cleaning solution can be used to scrub the rest of the dirt and algae off the bottom. However, instead of using bleach to clean the birdbath, consider making a solution of one part distilled white vinegar to nine parts water. If the birdbath is especially dirty, then soak the bath with the vinegar solution for a couple of minutes, making sure the bath itself is covered so that no birds attempt to drink from it during the cleaning process.

don't forget!

For best practices, it is best to remember to keep the birdbath full, keep it out of the way of falling debris, keep it in the shade, and to remove old stagnant water and replace with fresh and clean water. These methods will help you be a good host to backyard birds, as well as help prevent diseases from spreading, so you can enjoy bird watching all summer long!

Giant Pacific Octopus: A Large Piece of the Octo-Pi
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Giant Pacific Octopus: A Large Piece of the Octo-Pi

The Giant Pacific Octopus is very much a unique animal, especially when considered in the context of the ocean. As a nocturnal predator who spends most of its time on its own, this octopus has developed certain abilities which help optimize its defense against other creatures that may be higher up on the food chain. Perhaps the two most important defensive abilities the giant Pacific octopus has in its arsenal are its camouflage and ink dispersal. In using specialized cells the octopus can change colour to match with its surroundings, making it harder to detect. If it were to be detected even still it has the ability to launch ink at the enemy as both an attack and a diversion.

The largest of its kind

As their name suggests, they are the largest species of octopus that we know of. Typically, this means that they measure approximately 16 feet in length, weighing a bit over 100 pounds. The average still pales in comparison, however, with the record holder. To date, the biggest ever giant Pacific octopus measured about 600 pounds heavy and almost 30 feet long — an absolute unit! While impressive, the external measurements are not nearly as interesting as the internal aspects of their anatomy. Octopi have not one, not two, but three hearts, nine brains, and blue blood! Again, much like the name suggests, these octopi can be found all across milder Pacific waters from Alaska to Japan. Domestically speaking, this means we can find this species mostly on the coast of BC, although they can be a challenging find as they tend to live in caves. When feeding, they generally hunt for smaller aquatic animals like crustaceans, shellfish, and fish. Although they do not generally deviate from their preferred diet, it is not unusual for them to also target sharks and birds for meals in certain conditions. So what's the issue? Luckily, the giant Pacific octopus is not an at-risk species! Despite this, however, saying that they do not face any threats would be inaccurate and irresponsible. The main threat they face is living in polluted environments, as they are particularly susceptible to distress from environmental changes.

What can we do?

We need to take care of the environment we share with creatures such as the Giant Pacific Octopus. They, along with many other species, are highly dependent on having an acceptable range of conditions in which to live. The energy we use, the waste we create, and many more of our day-to-day activities are directly correlated with the quality of the environment that we share with other species. This means that being conscious of how we treat the earth is essential to our longevity, the longevity of the BC coast, and the longevity of animals like the Giant Pacific Octopus.

Nature Canada’s trip to Howe Island
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Nature Canada’s trip to Howe Island

On Monday, April 29, I, along with Ted Cheskey (Naturalist Director, Nature Canada) went down to Howe Island, Ontario to meet with Aric McBay. Aric is the Membership Development & Special Projects Manager, of the National Farmers Union. The intent of our visit was to provide advice and guidance on Purple Martin stewardship. Kurt Hennige (Kingston Field Naturalists), a man with a wealth of knowledge and experience with birds and nature, was also invited to share his expertise. Along with Aric, Tracey Guptill and Tim Dowling were also present and keen to learn the tricks of the trade of Purple Martin stewardship.

what we did

During our time visiting the farm, we learned that they had recently switched from a dairy farm to a grass-fed beef-selling farm. We were pleased to learn that they were all passionate about sustainable, ecological farming and that protecting nature was a high priority for them. Almost as if we were being welcomed by nature on a farm that prioritizes protecting wildlife, we saw four Broad-winged Hawks high in the skies in the midst of their return migration to the north, followed by a darting Eastern Meadowlark searching the pastures for some insects. After the excitement of seeing these beautiful birds had waned a little, it was time to check out the newly installed Purple Martin housing units. Even though Purple Martins had not yet arrived on Howe Island, a few Tree Swallows had began piling twigs in some compartments in preparation of attracting a mate and building a nest. While we were checking the compartments, Kurt Hennige and Ted Cheskey were busy sharing multiple lifetimes’ worth of insights that will help Aric in becoming a great steward of Ontario’s largest swallow species.

the highlight

The highlight of this visit was to see farmers and naturalists come together and discuss how to protect vulnerable species by using the knowledge bases that each group possesses. Partnerships between these two groups is essential in protecting wildlife and nature. Many species that naturalists fight to protect are often found on farmlands, and by working together we can increase the chance of saving these species before it is too late. To end our visit, we were invited inside for some tea with fresh milk from the farm. It was a great opportunity to sit and share ideas about sustainability, protecting bird species and continuing collaboration in future endeavours.

Celebrating Bird Day!
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Celebrating Bird Day!

On Saturday, May 11th, nature groups across North America celebrated World Migratory Bird Day to welcome back the return of migratory birds. In Canada, 80% of bird species leave our borders every fall to their wintering grounds and return every spring to nest.

Bird Day at the ottawa children's festival

Nature Canada hosted a Bird Day event in conjunction with the Ottawa Children’s Festival, as an opportunity for children and families to get outside, learn about migratory birds and be inspired to take part in conservation. Falcon Ed was back with a spectacular bird of prey flight demonstration. These majestic birds are always a crowd favourite, and this year participants saw up close a Harris hawk, Barn owl, American Kestrel and Great-Horned owl. The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre, and Ottawa Councillor Catherine McKenney attended and gave remarks on the importance of reducing plastic for bird conservation. And what’s a Bird Day event without bird watching? Families participated in a guided nature walk with Nature Canada’s resident naturalist, Ted Chesky, who led them down to the river where they learned the basics of birding. Some of the species spotted included, Tree and Barn swallow, Canada goose, Mallard, Killdeer, Ring-billed gull, Cormorant and Oriole.

celebrating birds across Canada!

Similar events took place across the country and throughout the Americas to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day, a project created by Environment for the Americas to raise awareness on the need to conserve birds and their habitats. This year’s conservation theme is “Protect Birds: Be the solution to Plastic Pollution” to raise awareness of the risks migratory birds face from ingesting plastics to entanglement. On the heels of a major UN report sounding the alarm on the devastating impact of humans on nature, Bird Day events can help raise awareness of bird conservation and showcase how individuals can make a difference for wildlife. Thank you to everyone who participated! See you next year!

Press Release: Ottawa Bird Day
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Press Release: Ottawa Bird Day

May 8, 2019 OTTAWA - Nature Canada in collaboration with the Ottawa Children’s Festival is hosting a free public event at LeBreton Flats Park on Saturday, May 11, 2019 to welcome back the birds. Ottawa Bird Day is part of World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD), an annual event celebrating the spectacular journey of nearly 350 migratory bird species as they travel from their wintering grounds in Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean to their nesting habitat in Canada. "Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution" is the 2019 theme to raise awareness of the risks migratory birds face from ingesting plastics, to entanglement. On the heels of a major UN report sounding the alarm on the devastating impact of humans on nature, Bird Day events can help raise awareness of bird conservation and showcase how individuals can make a difference for wildlife. “Local Bird Day events are a great opportunity for children and families to get outdoors, learn about migratory birds and be inspired to take part in conservation,” says Jill Sturdy, NatureHood Program Manager. The Ottawa Bird Day event will take place rain or shine at LeBreton Flats Park from 10am to 3pm and will include naturalist-led walks to observe birds and their habitat and nature activities for all ages. Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and Somerset Ward Councilor Catherine McKenney will make remarks and welcome participants just before noon. Event participants will also get a rare chance to see owls and falcons in flight as part of a Birds of Prey demonstration put on by Falcon Education. Similar events are taking place across the country and throughout the Americas to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day, a project created by Environment for the Americas to raise awareness on the need to conserve birds and their habitats. Groups across the country have listed their events on a map hosted at http://birdday.ca, a joint initiative of Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada. Follow the discussion online using #BirddayEh. For more information contact: Jill Sturdy, 613-276-7226 jsturdy@naturecanada.ca For the Ottawa event schedule go to here. Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada that works to connect people to nature and in doing so protect and conserve wildlife and habitats. Over the past 75 years, Nature Canada has helped protect more than 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada, and represents a network of over 100,000 members and supporters and more than 750 nature organizations across the country. www.naturecanada.ca

Hudsonian Godwit now threatened
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Hudsonian Godwit now threatened

Hudsonian Godwit was added to the growing list of threatened wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) during deliberations last week.  It is the eighth shorebird species to be added to the COSEWIC list. COSEWIC is an independent body of species scientists who have the responsibility of assessing and attributing a status to Canadian wildlife species. COSEWIC meets twice annually to assess and assign status to Canada’s ever-growing list of species under review. Once COSEWIC attributes a status of either Special Concern, Threatened or Endangered, the Federal government has six months to rule on whether the species is added to one Schedule One of Canada Species at Risk Act (SARA). Once that happens, the species then has the added power of federal law to contribute to its recovery. Figure 1 from the Macaulay Library, Cornell Labratory of Ornithology, Birds of North America


why the Hudsonian Godwit's survival is threatened

The Hudsonian Godwit has many life-history characteristics that render its populations vulnerable to habitat loss, climate change impacts, and pollution. For starters, its breeding range is restricted to a small area along the Hudson Bay coast, a small area along the Beaufort Sea near the Mackenzie River delta, and some scattered locations in western Alaska. The more restricted the range of a species, the more vulnerable it is to localized catastrophic events like a severe storm or fire.  Its global population is estimated at 50,000 to 70,000 birds. Climate change is happening at an accelerated rate in the Arctic, and it is likely that a combination of melting permafrost, sea level rise and drought is already impacting Godwit productivity. Challenges only get greater along its tremendous migration route, a 20,000 to 30,000 km round trip from the Arctic to southern tip of South America.  Godwits are known to fly thousands of kilometres non-stop from James Bay or the Atlantic Coast to the northern coast of South America. Loss and degradation of habitat, pollution and disturbance from humans are all threats that undermine the viability of essential stopover sites along its migration route.

Nature Canada knows this species well

It is one of the focal species in our work to support Cree Nations along southern James Bay with their own conservation efforts. For example, about 10% of its global population is known to stopover along the coast of the Moose Cree First Nation, contributing to the status of this coastline as Pei lay sheesh kow a candidate Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site. Other areas around James Bay also support significant numbers of the species on migration, particularly the delta and associated coastline near the mouth of the Albany River, which is believed to support about 20% of the species population. Nature Canada has worked with the Cree Nation of Waskaganish since 2012 to identify important shorebird habitat along their coastal region, leading to recognizing the Miinshtuk-Wiinebek IBA, a new Important Bird and Biodiversity Area on James Bay.  We have also found large numbers of Hudsonian Godwits in the area in flocks of up to 350 individuals. We hope to continue this work further north with the Cree Nation of Wemindji where more areas of importance to the Hudsonian Godwit and other threatened species can be identified and protected.

what canada needs to do

By finding out these birds are stopping during their epic migrations, and ensuring that area is safe and that the local population is engaged in stewardship and able to provide the species habitat needs, we are able to contribute to the species recover. Stopover habitat is like the links in a chain. Each link is essential to the chain’s existence. Shorebirds depend upon networks of these chains of stopover sites for their survival. The sites can easily become degraded from human activity, from upstream pollution, from oil and chemical spills, from invasive species, or from competing human activities. Canada needs to step up to recognize the critical sites in Canada, like James Bay, and support the indigenous nation’s efforts to recognize and protect these sites.

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