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A Walk in the Park, and the Importance of Protected Areas
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A Walk in the Park, and the Importance of Protected Areas

Growing up in Toronto, where the city seems to slowly creep ever farther over the landscape, parks provided the perfect green haven away from the concrete jungle. It’s where I saw my first moose, learned how to canoe, and, most importantly, where I first connected with nature. Over the next twenty years, I would realize how far-reaching the positive effects these parks would have, not only on me, but on the national conservation of our wilderness. [caption id="attachment_38437" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario.[/caption] While inspiring me to enter into the field of biology, these parks also gave me my first scientific job - working as a student naturalist. Here, the park shifted from being a playground to a teacher. In the park, we ran a variety of programs including guided hikes celebrating the overlooked plants of the understory and pond explorations where families caught darting aquatic invertebrates. They would peer through foggy glass at these wonderful and freaky creatures from the deep, eyes wide with wonder. Kids would go running back to their campsites to share all the amazing things that they had learned with their family and friends, allowing the knowledge to grow and gain a life of its own. We had some kids return in future years who were inspired to create their own “Interpretive Centres” full of antlers, rocks, and anything they were lucky enough to scrounge up back at home.  It was surreal to know that these park educational programs could form an intricate understanding between the public and nature. It was here that I realized that a park is a place of inspiration, where future generations can learn more about the natural world. Parks aren’t just refugia for humans however. Of course, they are also a home to a beautifully diverse range of species. These areas act as a haven to maintain pristine environments which, in turn, allows wildlife to thrive in peace. After graduating from university, I had the opportunity to delve into this realm wherein I worked on a variety of biomonitoring projects in parks across the country. Some of these projects were hands-off, including using motion-sensing trail cameras and timed audio-recorders to track species remotely throughout the landscape. These tools allowed us to non-invasively capture the shy and elusive critters in the area and gives us insight into their behaviours and habitat preferences. [caption id="attachment_38436" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Snug Harbour in Gros More National Park, Newfoundland.[/caption] For example, at Blue Lake Provincial Park, this system allowed scientists to discover the presence of the Olive-sided Flycatcher, a species-at-risk within Ontario. Other research projects were species-specific. For example, in Gros Morne National Park, scientists set up a fish fence every year in the park’s streams to monitor Atlantic salmon populations. These counts allow them to track the population trends and actively manage this declining species. Over time, I realized that the list of research conducted in our parks goes on for miles, from vegetation monitoring to species re-introductions. Through this vast array of scientific work, we are expanding our understanding of these ecosystems which consequently allows us to better preserve the many species that call our protected areas home. [gallery columns="4" link="none" size="medium" ids="38670,38668,38673,38675"] What I’ve learned through my life spent in parks is that they are wildly complex. From inspiring people to appreciate and learn more about the great outdoors, to actively managing species-at-risk, our parks play a huge role in ensuring that the landscapes and wildlife we enjoy today are still here for future generations. Parks are living organisms, acting as playgrounds, teachers, and scientists. They fill up our imaginations and hearts, transporting us from the confines of the city into vast and untamed landscapes. These parks are so much more than what meets the eye, you only need to take the time to get out there and then you can begin to appreciate and explore. Parks have helped shape who I am today, and I am excited for what else they will teach millions of other Canadians in the years to come. The author drew her inspiration for this post from her time spent as a naturalist for Ontario Parks at Blue Lake Provincial Park.

Connect with Nature: Take a Fall Hike
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Connect with Nature: Take a Fall Hike

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Samantha Nurse Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] This is a great time to take a hike in nature. The scenery is absolutely stunning and there are still a few weeks before you have to break out your winter jacket. Here are five tips to make the most of your trek through the freshly fallen leaves. 1) Bird watching: There is lots of bird watching to be done as our feathered friends migrate south for the winter. Before you head out on your hike, check out our e-Books to see what birds you could see. Also it is a great idea to pack a nature guide to help identify different species and to record your findings. 2) Join a guided nature walk: Many communities across Canada have clubs that engage local experts to lead public hikes. This is a great way to meet fellow nature lovers and learn more about the natural geography of your area. Keep an eye on local publications or perform a quick internet search to find a guided hike in your area.People walking in the forest 3) Bring your camera: There are few times of the year when nature is more beautiful than it is now. Pack your camera and capture some of the beautiful fall scenery you encounter along the way. 4) Take a snack (or two): Before you head out, prepare some nutritious snacks that will keep you fueled along the way. Cheese and crackers, apple slices and trail mix are a few easy-to-pack snacks that offer valuable nutrients for your hike. For a more seasonal treat, save the seeds from the inside of your pumpkin and roast them the night before you head out. 5) Do a leaf craft: Want to create a souvenir of your adventure? Bring a large hardbound book and a roll of wax or parchment paper. Collect a few leaves of different shapes and sizes, press them between two sheets of paper and tuck them in the book to keep them safe. When you get home, place the leaves between two pieces of white paper, rub with a crayon and you’re done! Be sure to stay on the trails you encounter and share with us any other tips you have on taking a fall hike!

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Connect with Nature: Enjoy Fall Colours
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Connect with Nature: Enjoy Fall Colours

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Samantha Nurse Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] All fall begins, there is still plenty of fun to be had in the great outdoors. Beginning in October, a steady autumn wave makes its way across the country, transforming local leaves into vibrant colours of red, yellow and orange. This creates an absolutely spectacular backdrop for an adventure in nature! There are lots of ways to soak up the fall colours. Five great fall activities include:

  1. Taking time to head to a local park for a walk and bringing along a camera to capture your picturesque surroundings. [caption id="attachment_24800" align="alignright" width="296"]Image of a Bufflehead Image of a Bufflehead[/caption]
  2. Go out for a bike ride and enjoy various paths through Canada's National Parks filled with colour changing trees. Plus this year, you can get free admission with the 2017 Discovery Pass.
  3. Don't put away your binoculars just yet! There are still various birds in fall migration. For example, All Buffleheads Day celebrates the migration of this species in British Columbia. As well, Point Pelee is a great spot to see a wide variety of birds making their way south.
  4. Grab the whole family and enjoy a picnic in the fall foliage! Studies have shown numerous health benefits of both adults and children spending time in nature.
  5. Do a fall craft! Use the colourful leaves as placemats for your home. Full instructions to this craft can be found here.
The timing of the change in colour depends on a number of variables so be sure to check regional foliage reports for the best time to experience the vibrant colours of fall in your area. Can't make it to a park? Take a stroll through your neighborhood to see how your local trees have changed with the colder weather! No matter where you choose to view the foliage, take advantage of this colourful time to enjoy nature and all it has to offer.
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Your guide to fun summer activities at Canada’s national parks and historic sites
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Your guide to fun summer activities at Canada’s national parks and historic sites

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Samantha Nurse Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption]

As summer is in full swing, it’s time to start thinking about how you can make the most of those long, hot summer days.

Here’s an idea: plan a trip to one of Canada’s 200 national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas! Plus, this year these sites are all free to access with the 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass! Whether you need a pit-stop where you can cool off, take a swim and have lunch, or you have always dreamed of a family vacation where you can tune into nature or immerse yourself in our nation’s history, there’s an adventure waiting for you at these of natural and historic areas.

10 things to do in a day

1. Grab a bite – With benches, washroom facilities and food concession stands, national parks and historic sites can be great places to stop for a snack and some fresh air. Walk along a trail and find a quieter, shaded area for a perfect afternoon picnic. 2. Hike a trail – You don’t need to be an ambitious hiker to enjoy the trails at most national parks. Take a walk along the coast, hike to a viewpoint or find an interpretive trail where you’ll learn more about the wildlife that calls this park home. You can follow this guide of 5 easy tips to prepare for any hike! [caption id="attachment_23400" align="alignright" width="313"]algonquin outlook Algonquin National Park[/caption] 3. Get out on the water – A relaxing and peaceful way to explore the rivers, lakes and coasts of Canada’s national parks is by boat. Canoeing, kayaking and row boating are the best ways to enjoy the lakes at parks like the La Mauricie National Park. You can glide quietly, closely observing the natural world on and around the water. 4. Get snap-happy – You never know when the perfect photo opportunity will come along when you’re exploring national parks. Teeming with wildlife and spectacular vistas, national parks are a great place for amateur and professional photographers alike to capture iconic species and landmarks on film. With your best photos, be sure to submit them to our Nature Photo Contest for a chance to win some amazing prizes! 5. Relax for a picnic - Sit at a picnic bench or on the ground, either way, you will be able to relax in the beauty of nature! See what wildlife you can spot and get some shade under a tree. Be sure to bring your food in tupperware to reduce waste and leave nothing behind. 6. Enjoy a performance – During the summer, you can watch re-enactments of famous battles, military drills and everyday Victorian life at many national historic sites. If you’re visiting Montreal, why not discover Old Montreal's little-known heritage jewel the Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site in honour of our famous Father of Confederation? 7. Take a step back in time – Ever wonder what life was really like just a few hundred years ago? Step right into 19th-century life by dressing up in period costumes, becoming a Mountie for a day and sampling heritage recipes at places like Fort Walsh. [caption id="attachment_10588" align="alignleft" width="288"]Image of a flock of common terns Common Terns at Pelee Point, Point Pelee National Park[/caption] 8. Get to know our feathered friends – Try to identify as many birds species as you can as you stroll along a trail or drive through a national park. At the southernmost point in Canada, Point Pelee National Park is also one of the most spectacular nature hotspots in North America. 9. Explore an underwater world – Discover a world of vibrant marine life at Canada’s four national marine conservation areas. Check for sea stars in tidal pools. Spy whales off the coast. And don’t forget to look up – you don’t want to miss seabirds flying to their nesting colonies. Want to take an even closer look? Explore shipwrecks as you snorkel or take the glass bottom boat at Fathom Five National Marine Park. 10. Tour the past – Let Parks Canada interpreters guide you through key moments in Canada’s history. Their wealth of knowledge brings the stories to life as you walk in the footsteps of some of our most famous Canadians. If you’re in the Maritimes this summer, don’t miss the Halifax Citadel – this attraction is a nationally recognized site is a "must see" for any history buff. Got more time? If you plan on staying for more than just one day, there are plenty of activities that will bring you closer to nature. Extend your day-hike to a multi-day hike, add an overnight stay at a campground or spend another day practicing your surfing skills.
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Ready for a walk? It’s Take a Walk in the Park Day!
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Ready for a walk? It’s Take a Walk in the Park Day!

150x150_asimardThis blog was written by writing intern Amanda Simard.   March 30th is Take a Walk in the Park Day. To celebrate, we’ve listed some of Canada’s most beautiful parks to visit with the whole family. Take a read through to discover breathtaking trails, as well as tips for hiking! Algonquin Provincial Park The Algonquin Provincial Park is located in south-central Ontario. Home to over 40 species of mammals and over 130 bird species, the park is a great place for wildlife watching.  Hike and snowshoe along the trails, enjoy lunch at the picnic grounds, or canoe in the beautiful backcountry—there’s something here for everyone. [caption id="attachment_30327" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of Pink Lake Trail Pink Lake Trail. Photo by Asma Hassan[/caption] Gatineau Park Gatineau Park is a conservation park located in the National Capital Region. The park has over 250 km of trails, and it offers a variety of activities year round. With a wide range of protected ecosystems and habitats, Gatineau Park is home to many protected species and nearly 230 species of birds have been spotted in the park. The park has many breathtaking sights, including Pink Lake—a unique “meromictic” lake where the water from the depths never mixes with the surface water. Cape Breton Highlands National Park Discover the beauty Nova Scotia has to offer at Cape Breton Highlands National Park “where the mountains meet the sea.” With 26 scenic trails, there is a lot to see here all year round. Cape Breton Highlands National Park is located by the Atlantic Ocean and many sightseeing spots offer unique views of Canadian sea life. For beautiful coastal landscapes and a moderate hike, take a look at the Acadian Trail. Sunshine Coast Trail The Sunshine Coast Trail is an 185 km trail extending from Sarah Point to Saltery Bay. The trail offers a unique experience of Powell River’s breathtaking backcountry. There is a diverse range of wildlife to spot along the trail: bears, wolves, elk, many bird species, and even a variety of sea mammals such as otters, seals, dolphins, and whales. Additionally, the Sunshine Coast Trail is the only free hut-to-hut hiking trail in Canada, which makes for a truly unique experience. [caption id="attachment_30078" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of Moraine Lake by Brooke Davis Larch Valley Trail. Photo by Brooke Davis[/caption] Banff National Park As one of the most beautiful mountain destination, Banff National Park has a lot to offer hiking enthusiasts. The park has over 1,600 km of trails and is home to diverse animals, including over 260 species of birds. For breathtaking views of the Ten Peaks, the Larch Valley Trail offers a moderate hike into a unique larch forest above Moraine Lake. Nearby Kananaskis Country also offers beautiful trails. Go biking along the Goat Creek Trail, or canoeing in Barrier Lake. Need tips? Our bloggers are also happy to share their experience and wisdom. Here are some blog posts with tips to help you make the most of your park-going experiences! Find out 10 ways to spend your day when visiting one of Canada’s 200 national parks. Want to know what you should bring on a hike? Learn 5 easy tips for making the most of your hiking pack. Eager to hit the trails but unsure how to get there without a car? Here are some easy and affordable solutions. What are some of your favourite parks? What adventure wisdom do you have to share? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter!

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Preserving Rare Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Canada
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Preserving Rare Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Canada

[caption id="attachment_26918" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Blair Scott Blair Scott,
Professional Writing Intern[/caption]

British Columbia is a province of vast ecological treasures – it is home to great mountains, beautiful oceans, and pristine landscapes of rugged forests. It also contains one of the highest numbers of provincial parks and ecological reserves in Canada – with 443 parks and 131 reserves documented by The Canadian Encyclopedia in 1996. The list does not end there, however – BC’s South Okanagan-Similkameen Valley region has been cited as one of the most important natural landscapes in Canada to protect.

The South Okanagan-Similkameen Valley features two of the four most endangered ecosystems in Canada – the dry bunchgrass grasslands and the open Ponderosa pine forests. It also hosts Canada’s only “pocket desert.” Breathtaking views of the nighttime sky can be seen here, so if you enjoy the company of stars amidst serene desert-solitude, you will definitely want to visit this place!

There are currently 56 federally-listed endangered species that reside in this region. This includes plant and animal species found nowhere else in Canada, such as Lyall’s Mariposa Lily, the Flammulated Owl and the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad.

[caption id="attachment_26859" align="alignright" width="231"]Image of a Burrowing Owl Burrowing Owl appropriately burrowing into a hole - victim of habitat loss[/caption]

While the South Okanagan-Similkameen Valley contains high biodiversity value, the region is also degrading in its biodiversity as a result of development projects and climate impacts. Human impact has already taken a toll on the Burrowing Owl, the Sharp-tailed Grouse and the White-tailed Jackrabbit – formerly-thriving residents of the region.

Over the years, concerns of local residents and First Nations have been burgeoning –sparking grassroots movements and organizational partnerships in the process. In 2002, the Okanagan Nation Alliance and members of the community initiated the request for a national park reserve. The governments of Canada and British Columbia responded a year later by signing a Memorandum of Understanding as a gesture of acknowledgement and support. Since then, several "feasibility assessments" have been made, and it was estimated in 2010 that the proposed park will sprawl across 284 square kilometres of the South Okanagan-Similkameen Valley.

Rare Species Profiles:

The Flammulated Owl (Otus Flammeolus): classified under SARA as Schedule 1, Species of Special Concern; identification:

  • Small owl with stubby, little ear tufts
  • Large, black-button eyes
  • Colourful, changing feather pattern – in the Ponderosa pine forests of the south, reddish hues predominate; in the northernmost parts of the region, grayish hues mixed with browns match the Douglas-fir trees around
  • Habitat is threatened by agricultural activities and forest operations – not good for a creature that dwells in the woods
[caption id="attachment_26901" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of the Lyall's Mariposa-lily The Lyall's Mariposa-lily by Five Acre Geographic (CC BY-ND 2.0)[/caption]

Lyall’s Mariposa Lily (Calochortus lyallii): classified under SARA as Schedule 1, Threatened Species; identification:

  • White with a moon-shaped spot at the base of its petals – may bear a purple “crescent” on top
  • Similar to the Three-spot Mariposa Lily (Calochortus apiculatus), except smaller
  • Like other Mariposa lilies, it is characterized by a set of three petals interlaced with three sepals, and takes refuge in grassy meadows and dry hillsides
  • Shade intolerant
  • A very rare lily in the southern interior of British Columbia; in Canada, this lily species only occurs between the Similkameen river and the Okanagan Valley
  • Several threats ranging from predators (insects/small mammals), invasive weeds, land alteration via coniferous tree planting, availability of pollinators and reproductive failure

The Great Basin Spadefoot Toad (Spea intermontana): classified under SARA as Schedule 1, Threatened Species; identification:

  • Medium-sized; 40-65 mm long
  • Hues of olive, browns, light-gray shades; dark, raised patches on its back
  • The soles of its hind feet are spiked with spades – used to burrow
  • Possess “cat eyes” separated by a glandular bump in the middle (a.k.a. a “boss”)
  • Resides in dry grasslands and open forests; needs a combination of terrestrial and aquatic habitat
  • Habitat is threatened by agricultural activity and land development

Fun Facts

  • Did you know that BC was the first province in Canada to formally establish permanently-protected ecological reserves? They were able to do so with the 1971 enactment of the Ecological Reserves Act.
  • Ecological reserves are distinct from parks. While the latter permits many types of recreation such as camping, fishing and hunting, these “consumptive” activities are prohibited in designated ecological reserves. However, nature-appreciation activities such as bird watching, wildlife viewing and photography are generally permitted.
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Connect with Nature: Go Stargazing
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Connect with Nature: Go Stargazing

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] There are few things that can compare to the beautiful sight of a starry night. Stargazing is a great way to soak up Mother Nature and unwind from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. Here are a few tips to help make the most out of your stargazing experience.

Where to go:

Pick a location that will give you minimal glare from artificial light and a maximum view of the sky. Consider visiting a local park or, if you’re able, head to a Dark Sky Preserve for a truly unique stargazing experience. In Canada, we’re lucky to be home to seventeen of these designated sites, which are natural spaces kept free of artificial light in order to promote astronomy and minimize light pollution. Some of these preserves, including Fathom Five National Marine Park, host guided night hikes where you can experience the breathtaking beauty of the night sky with fellow nature lovers. Image of a person looking at a starry night

What to bring:

The great thing about stargazing is that you don’t need any special gear or information to get started. Stars, constellations and meteor showers are all visible to the naked eye. If you’d like to get a closer look, bring along a pair of binoculars or a telescope if you have one.  A guide to the sky can be easily downloaded online or picked up at a local book store. Most smart phones also have apps that can help you navigate the sky once your location has been determined.

When to go:

Keep an eye on the weather forecast and wait for an evening with a clear, moonless sky. Before you head out, check out these simple tips to make sure you get the most of your viewing experience. Don’t forget to pack a thermos of hot liquid, like tea or hot chocolate to keep you warm. Bundle up and enjoy your evening under the stars!
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Saskatchewan’s underappreciated trails
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Saskatchewan’s underappreciated trails

By Scott Davidson Over the past two summers, I have hiked and biked nearly 200 kilometres of trails in Saskatchewan’s national, provincial and regional parks. Through this time and apart from those in my adventuring groups, I can count the other humans I’ve encountered on my ten fingers. This begs the questions; are Saskatchewan’s trails underappreciated? Do people simply not know about them or are they simply ignoring them? For many Canadians, Saskatchewan is the equivalent of “the flyover states” in America. While often written off as a place where you can see your dog run away from a week, my time on Saskatchewan’s trails has shown me that my province contains so much more than the endless sea of flatland most picture when they think of it. With two national parks – including Canada’s only national prairie park –, 35 provincial parks and a wealth of smaller, regional parks, there are a wealth of trails to be tackled in Saskatchewan. But again, it seems like there is just nobody using them – apart from myself and the occasional group of friends I take with me. Take for example the Boreal Trail in Meadow Lake Provincial Park. At 120 kilometres long, the Boreal Trail is not only Saskatchewan’s longest trail, but also one of its few “real” destinations for backpacking. On the August long weekend of this year, which is typically a time when Saskatchewan residents take advantage of the provincial holiday to escape the city, we spent two nights on the trail and hiked 33 KM. Yet, the only people we saw – apart from each other – were two hikers less than an hour from the trailhead. So why people not exploring Saskatchewan via its wonderful trails? Saskatchewan’s residents know that the province contains much more than the open prairies its reputation is stereotyped upon. The Cypress Hills, located in the province’s southwestern corner contain the highest point in Canada between the Rocky Mountains and Quebec and a far cry from the grasslands that they tower over. Prince Albert National Park represents an accessible leap into Saskatchewan’s vast boreal forest, which covers approximately half of the province. Though it’s a shame that more people aren’t aware of Saskatchewan’s wonderful trails, there is a benefit to this dissonance as well; complete and utter solitude. Many hikers, myself included, venture into nature to get away from cell phones, work and the ever present connectivity of the modern day. So until more people discover the natural wonders that lay on Saskatchewan’s trails – and maybe they will because of this blog post – they will remain a place of solitude for the few who take the time to explore them in full.

Conservation groups standing up for nature in Ottawa
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Conservation groups standing up for nature in Ottawa

[caption id="attachment_17618" align="alignright" width="150"]Download brief on Bill C-40 that will be presented to the House. View the amendments contained in the brief that will be presented before the Standing Committee.[/caption] On October 29, 2014 at 4:30pm EST, Nature Canada's affiliate, Ontario Nature, will go before the House of Commons' Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development and ask for a stronger Bill C-40, a piece of legislation which will establish Canada's first urban park - the Rouge National Urban Park. Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature, will present a set of five recommendations for amendments to the Act that will "clearly prioritize ecological integrity and require the protection of natural ecosystems and wildlife". Nature Canada stands by our Ontario affiliate and we are strongly supporting their efforts to improve this bill. Nature Canada deeply believes in the importance of creating an urban national park. Our NatureHood initiative is designed to help connect city-living Canadians with their nearby nature. Nature Canada has also been advocating for more national parks for the bulk of our 75 year history and we're proud to have played a role in the creation of over 63 million acres of parks and protected national wildlife areas in Canada. Unfortunately, Bill C-40 is weak and needs to be strengthened. As it stands, the legislation fails to meet standards for sustainability and ecological health and integrity set out in existing policies that cover Rouge Park. If you're as excited as we are about good, healthy urban parks, join us in cheering on Caroline Schultz on October 29, 2014 when she speaks before the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

National Conservation Plan: Great news, but HOW will we make it a success? [PART 2]
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National Conservation Plan: Great news, but HOW will we make it a success? [PART 2]

[This blog post is part 2 of a 2-part series. Part 1 can be found here]

[dropcap]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? Notwithstanding what’s missing, the National Conservation Plan does promise $20 million/year and $10 million/year investments in the Nature Conservancy of Canada (for ecologically sensitive areas) and wetland restoration, respectively, which is very positive. It’s fair to question how these investments will help to connect all Canadians to nature, however, since they seem to be focused on protecting private lands, instead of lands (not waters) that will be publicly owned and accessible, or located in or near large population centres. After all, more than 80% of us presently live in urban centres. So how will the government ensure that it delivers on the National Conservation Plan’s promise to connect urban Canadians to nature? There’s less and less capacity within departments like Environment Canada and Parks Canada to develop and deliver these programs and neither Budget 2014 nor the Plan assign this mandate to any specific department. It’s very positive to see the government reaching out to conservation partners like Earth Rangers and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, but this task will require many more players working with a variety of approaches to engage Canada’s increasingly distracted, increasingly culturally diverse and increasingly urban population in this venture – or as Prime Minister Harper puts it, this “ethic of true stewardship… of the heart”. You can’t change people’s minds, attitudes or behaviours simply with an advertising campaign, no matter how well produced or widely broadcast it is. As proponents of community-based social marketing would advise, you first need to understand the real and perceived barriers to the beneficial behaviour(s) you want people to adopt and then work to remove or overcome those barriers. The most effective approach to making these beneficial behaviours stick is to work locally where people can observe more and more of their neighbours and peers gradually adopting the behaviours over time. Curb-side recycling is the best example of this – no one wants to be the only resident on the street who doesn’t recycle. Hopefully this strategic approach to engaging Canadians and fostering a new nationwide conservation ethic is inherent in the thinking behind the National Conservation Plan, but we’ll have to wait and see. [caption id="attachment_11934" align="alignright" width="300"]Cars stuck in traffic on a multi-lane highway in a Canadian City. More than 80% of Canadians currently live in or near urban centres.[/caption] Of course, we’ve got no time to lose since our relationship with nature is only becoming more broken with time, to paraphrase host Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio’s program Q. We should point to another significant oversight in the Conservation Plan: the private sector. If we want a wholesale, Canadian stewardship ethic to begin evolving in the next 5 years, wouldn’t it make sense to engage the businesses driving our commerce and trade (domestic and international), selling us consumer goods and providing countless services to Canadians? Shouldn’t we have the opportunity to nurture our heartfelt stewardship ethic at the cash register? The gas pump? The grocery store? Moreover, businesses and industry may be driven by heart, but their actions in the market and on the ground are governed by regulation. And in order to make a National Conservation Plan truly relevant, it must be espoused and endorsed by industry and the private sector. Don’t get us wrong, we think the National Conservation Plan is a good step in the right direction, and we applaud the government for making this bold commitment. But let’s make sure this isn’t just an investment in good feelings.

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