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Nature Canada congratulates federal government for its commitments to nature but no funding to conserve biodiversity is a missed opportunity
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Nature Canada congratulates federal government for its commitments to nature but no funding to conserve biodiversity is a missed opportunity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Ottawa (March 22, 2017)—Nature Canada congratulates the federal government for its commitment to nature in the 2017 federal budget, including providing $25 million over  5 years for the Indigenous Guardians Pilot Project to provide indigenous communities with resources to manage nature conservation on their traditional lands. Nature Canada is also pleased by the investment of $30 million over 5 years for completion of the Trans Canada Trail, providing millions of Canadians with opportunities to enjoy nature. “We are pleased to see a re-commitment to Canada protecting 17 per cent of its lands and inland waters by 2020 as required under the Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity”, says Eleanor Fast, Executive Director of Nature Canada. “However, with no funding for new National Parks, National Wildlife Areas or Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, or to conserve biodiversity in existing areas, overall the 2017 federal budget is a missed opportunity for Canada to meet its international commitments to protect nature”. “Nature Canada commends the $364 million investment in management and maintenance of infrastructure in National Parks and National Historic Sites. Roads, campgrounds and visitor centres are an important gateway for people to access and enjoy nature,” says Stephen Hazell, Nature Canada’s Director of Conservation. “But conservation of biodiversity must remain the primary purpose of our parks and protected areas, and we are disappointed to see no investment in this area.”


For media comment, please contact:  Eleanor Fast, Executive Director, Nature Canada 613-314-8713 efast@naturecanada.ca Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation, Nature Canada 613-724-1908 shazell@naturecanada.ca For further media assistance, please contact:  Janet Weichel McKenzie, Media Specialist, Nature Canada 613-808-4642 jweichelmckenze@gmail.com The Green Budget Coalition (GBC) The Green Budget Coalition (GBC), including Nature Canada, recommended that the 2017 federal budget invest $10 million per year for five years in Parks Canada to lead development and coordinate implementation of a pan-Canadian action plan to protect at least 17 percent of lands and inland waters by 2020. The Coalition also recommended an ongoing federal investment of $85 million per year to:
  • Create at least six new national parks and three new national wildlife areas by 2020, and identify additional new areas for protection through science and traditional knowledge-based plans; and
  • Strengthen management of all national parks, national wildlife areas and migratory bird sanctuaries to protect their ecological integrity.
The Green Budget Coalition (GBC), active since 1999, brings together seventeen of Canada’s leading environmental and nature organizations to present an analysis of the most pressing issues regarding environmental sustainability in Canada. About Nature Canada Nature Canada is Canadian nature conservation charity. Over the past 75 years, Nature Canada has helped protect over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, Nature Canada represents a network comprised of over 45,000 members and supporters and more than 350 nature organizations across the country and with affiliates in every province.

Nature Groups Team Up to Urge Protection of More Endangered Spaces
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Nature Groups Team Up to Urge Protection of More Endangered Spaces

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] Nature Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and provincial and territorial nature groups have teamed up to urge Canadian governments to ramp up the establishment of protected areas to meet Canada’s international obligation to protect at least 17% of our land and inland waters by 2020.Image of Proposed Protected Areas button In a February 17, 2017 letter, Canada’s nature groups congratulated federal, provincial and territorial ministers meeting on February 21-22 for committing to the Pathway to Canada Target 1 initiative to expand Canada’s protected areas network.  These ministers have established a national steering committee chaired by Parks Canada and Alberta Parks to lead the initiative. In the letter, we urged governments to:

  • Start by implementing existing commitments and proposals to establish protected areas;
  • Develop an action plan to achieve the 17% target  for each province and territory as well a federally;
  • Focus on the quality of protected areas to be established in terms of design, management and connectivity, as well as quantity of lands to be protected;
  • Work with Indigenous governments and communities to establish Indigenous and co-managed protected areas;
  • Pursue opportunities to establish protected areas that can serve as carbon sinks and serve as natural solutions enabling adaptation to global climate change; and
  • Look beyond the 17% by 2020 target to scale up protection, because biodiversity in Canada needs more than the 17%.
Nature Canada is collaborating with provincial nature groups as well as CPAWS  to identify specific lands and inland waters that need protection and generate public support. Our view is that Canada will only achieve its 17% international target for protected areas if Canadians demand it, loudly and firmly. To raise awareness on this issue, consider writing a letter to your local editor on protecting and saving our critical wilderness areas.
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A Greenish Budget
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A Greenish Budget

[caption id="attachment_23643" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] Federal finance minister Bill Morneau announced the Liberal government’s first budget on March 22. Overall, Budget 2016 is pretty good for nature. Positive announcements include: National Parks

  • $142.5 million over 5 years for new parks establishment ($42 million);
  • $83.3 million to pay for free admissions to National Parks; and
  • $16.6 million for the Learn to Camp Program.
Marine and Coastal Areas
  • $81.3 million over 5 years to establish new marine protected areas and for marine conservation activities.
Environmental Assessment
  • $16.5 million over 3 years  for participant funding in environmental assessments of projects such as Energy East; and
  • $14.5 million over 3 years  to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for increasing its capacity with respect to consultations and compliance and enforcement.
Image of grasslandsBudget 2016 includes $2 billion for a low-carbon future fund and $518 million in climate change mitigation and adaptation infrastructure projects.  Nature Canada and other nature groups will be arguing that protection of  ecosystems such as native grasslands should be eligible for funding under these funds as inexpensive means to sequester and store carbon and build in resilience to global climate change. Nature Canada is disappointed  that  there is no new funding for Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) for
  • Species at risk,  migratory birds or grasslands conservation; or
  • Connecting Canadians to nature (Parks Canada did received funding for the Learn to Camp program)
Nature Canada and the other nature groups in the Green Budget Coalition need to work harder this year to ensure that these neglected CWS program areas are not neglected in Budget 2017. So in conclusion, overall a rating of “Greenish” for Budget 2016.
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Canada’s environment is central to Canadians’ prosperity, says coalition of environmental organizations
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Canada’s environment is central to Canadians’ prosperity, says coalition of environmental organizations

Last week, the Green Budget Coalition released a report, Recommendations for Budget 2015, which encourages the Government of Canada to take certain measures to advance environmental sustainability and stimulate innovation and economic opportunities. "The Green Budget Coalition believes strongly that adopting the recommendations in his document will be invaluable for providing Canadians with a healthy environment, a thriving, sustainable economy and the opportunity to live healthy lives today and far into the future," said Andrew Van Iterson, Manager of the Green Budget Coalition. The report focuses on three strategic areas:

  1. Energy innovation and climate change leadership
  2. Achieving Canada's conservation commitments
  3. Ensuring healthy communities for all Canadians

[button link="http://greenbudget.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Green-Budget-Coalitions-Recommendations-for-Budget-2015-November-12-2014.pdf" size="medium" target="_self" color="alternative-1" lightbox="false"]Read the full report here[/button]


Nature Canada is a member of the Green Budget Coalition. The Coalition brings together the collective expertise of fourteen of Canada’s leading environmental and conservation organizations, representing over 600,000 Canadians, to present an analysis of the most pressing issues regarding environmental sustainability in Canada and to make a consolidated annual set of recommendations to the federal government regarding strategic fiscal and budgetary opportunities.  

National Conservation Plan: Great news, but HOW will we make it a success? [PART 1]
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National Conservation Plan: Great news, but HOW will we make it a success? [PART 1]

[This blog post is part 1 of a 2-part series. Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2]

[dropcap style="default"]S[/dropcap]o it’s Canada Environment Week — did you know? More importantly, did you know that in mid-May the federal government made a significant commitment to conservation in Canada? That’s right. On May 15th, just days before the United Nations International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22), the federal government released its long-awaited National Conservation Plan. Though the details are still unclear, the Plan promises to invest $252-million over the next five years in Conserving Canada’s lands and waters, restoring Canada’s ecosystems and Connecting Canadians to nature. This is a positive achievement and it’s one that we at Nature Canada generally applaud. For a long time, we have been a key advocate for a lot of the sorts of things that this plan talks about and, of course, connecting Canadians to nature is our core mission. [caption id="attachment_11926" align="alignleft" width="300"]Algonquin Park wetland showing black spruce and a typical Canadian Shield landscape, Ontario, Canada, protected area Publicly accessible protected areas like Ontario's Algonquin Park aren't directly addressed in the National Conservation Plan.[/caption] During Prime Minister Harper’s announcement of the Plan in New Brunswick in May, Canadians were told that “[a]n ethic of true stewardship cannot be imposed by regulation, it is of the heart”, and that we  “… should become willingly and eagerly a community of stewards”. We don’t disagree with either of these statements, but we question how the investments announced under the Plan will achieve these lofty goals. In Nature Canada’s case, we’ve been trying to achieve these goals since 1939 — longer than any other national conservation organization in Canada — and it’s not easy. And with the phenomenon of ‘nature deficit disorder’ and our growing disconnect with the natural world, it’s surely not getting any easier with time. This question of “how” to achieve the Plan’s goals arises again this Canada Environment Week, for which this year’s theme is “Strengthening our Environment Today for Tomorrow”. The government’s investment of $252 million promises to “build on the conservation measures announced in Budget 2014” over a 5 year period from 2014 to 2019, with notable funding injections in the following areas:
  • $10 million/year for the voluntary restoration and conservation of species and their habitats (presumably referring to species at risk stewardship and recovery funding)
  • $7.4 million/year for marine and coastal conservation (presumably referring to marine protected areas, which need to jump from just 1% protection currently all the way to 10% by 2020, as per the UN Convention on Biological Diversity)
  • $1.84 million/year to connect urban Canadians to nature (presumably referring to new programs, or perhaps the Rouge National Urban Park…?)
These investments are intended to build on approximately $406.5 million announced in Budget 2014 for natural heritage conservation by Parks Canada and Fisheries & Ocean over the next 5 years – 96% of which is actually for infrastructure improvements in national parks and along historic canals. One could argue that this infrastructure makes it easier for people access to nature, yes, but it doesn’t necessarily remove the most important barriers for people. Barriers like the distance, cost and time associated with visiting Canada’s amazing national parks and other protected land- and seascapes. Absent from Budget 2014 was any mention of funding for the protection of publicly-owned marine or terrestrial protected areas because Canada protects so little of its overall land area compared to the United States. Today, however, in response to CPAWS’ Dare to be Deep report on marine protection in Canada, CBC reports that Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea’s office stated the following: “We remain committed to meet our target of protecting 10 per cent of our oceans by 2020 under the International Convention on Biological Diversity.” Again, the question of “how” looms large. Stay tuned tomorrow where we'll explore the "how" issue and others in depth.

Why is downgraded protection for BC’s Humpback Whales an extra special concern?
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Why is downgraded protection for BC’s Humpback Whales an extra special concern?

On April 19th the federal government published an order to down-list, or downgrade protection of, the North Pacific Humpback Whale population under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA). The order was published in Canada Gazette Part I, where proposed regulations gestate and briefly undergo consultation before becoming official under Gazette Part II. Until May 17th Canadians are invited to share their comments on this order here. But enough of the Civics lesson, why did this happen and what does it mean? [caption id="attachment_11066" align="alignleft" width="300"]Two North Pacific humpback whales cresting out of the water. Nature Canada, British Columbia Two North Pacific Humpback Whales off the BC coast.[/caption] It all began back in 2011 when Canada’s premier independent scientific advisory body on the state of wildlife, called COSEWIC or the Committee for the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, assessed the available data for the North Pacific population of the Humpback Whale, found along the entire British Columbia coast and into northwest Alaska.  Based largely on an estimated increase of more than 50% in the North Pacific Humpback population over the last 64.5 years, COSEWIC determined that the species’ abundance has improved sufficiently to have its legal status downgraded from “threatened” to “special concern” under SARA. Despite what may appear to be semantics, this change has legal significance in that species that are listed as “threatened” or “endangered” under SARA receive full protection under the general prohibitions of the Act as well as legal protection of their critical habitat. The Act still applies to species of “special concern” of course, but they do not enjoy the same degree of protection as the more ‘at-risk’ species listed. Whatever this change entails, we mustn't overlook the fact that COSEWIC doesn’t make such recommendations lightly. In recommending this down-listing to government, COSEWIC was careful to note that the North Pacific Humpback population is still not in the clear and coupled with the threats it still faces, cannot be considered a “recovered” population that’s free from risk. Therefore, it still warrants the federal government’s attention under SARA, and the science firmly supports that approach. [caption id="attachment_11067" align="alignright" width="375"]North Pacific Humpback Whale (iStock) North Pacific Humpback Whale off the Alaskan coast[/caption] But what about the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline? The Trans Mountain Pipeline? New oil tanker traffic up and down Canada’s west coast? What could these new developments, and the threats they could bring, mean for the North Pacific Humpback Whale? Surely they won’t be beneficial and with reduced protections for this population under SARA, there’s a narrower scope of potential impacts on the species and its habitat to be considered, mitigated or avoided altogether. Some critics say the government’s timing for this Order, whether it’s based on scientific advice or not, is suspect given the proposed mega-projects along the west coast. I would offer this perspective, however: the timing of this order is troubling because it demands that government keep a close eye on a species that’s not yet in the clear, and that may face new threats, all in the midst of significant government downsizing and loss of science capacity. Simply put, you can’t respond to changes in populations that you don’t monitor, and you don’t monitor without people. The timing of this government Order is unfortunate because it signals a loss of scientific and monitoring capacity for the species at the very time when threats to North Pacific Humpback Whales from ship strikes and tanker oil spills are very likely to increase. So that, in my view, is what this seemingly semantic change could mean for North Pacific population of Canada’s Humpback Whales.

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