News and views on conservation in Canada, and updates from CPAWS chapters across the country.
As the first major snowstorm of the season bears down on Ottawa this evening, I’m wondering what travel challenges tomorrow morning will bring. I have to make my way to Parliament Hill first thing in the morning for a series of meetings with colleagues from fourteen of Canada’s leading environmental and conservation organizations who are members of the Green Budget Coalition. Over the next two days we’ll meet with federal Ministers, officials in the Prime Minister’s office, the Privy Council Office, Finance Ministry, as well as MPs from all parties to deliver our recommendations for “greening” next year’s federal budget.
This year, the Coalition’s main “nature recommendation” focuses on developing a National Conservation Plan for Canada. This has been a longstanding commitment of this government that has yet to be delivered. In our meetings we’ll be urging the feds to create a plan that recognizes Canada’s unique and globally significant opportunity to conserve nature. That they lead an effort to scale up our conservation work across the country, to tackle the on-going decline in the health of all of Canada’s major ecosystems in more ambitious and science-based way.
We’re not suggesting the federal government go it alone --quite the opposite. To be successful, a national conservation plan has to engage all sectors of society, so we’re proposing that the federal government play a leadership role by convening a dialogue, by setting an ambitious agenda linked to achieving our international commitments to biodiversity conservation, and by taking direct action in areas of federal responsibility like national parks and conserving our oceans.
As one example of direct action they should take, we’re recommending that the federal government invest $40 million per year to create six new national parks (all projects that are currently underway), and better protect wildlife in our existing national parks by Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017. We believe that national parks offer a great way to showcase our magnificent country as part of Canada’s big birthday bash.
In this era of fiscal constraint and limited federal spending it may seem like pushing a rope uphill to be recommending any kind of new spending in the upcoming budget. But the reality is that investing in conservation is not only an investment in the health of our natural environment, it’s also a very good economic stimulus measure. The unspoiled natural beauty and wildlife in our national parks also makes them big economic engines as foundations of our tourism industry. In 2011 our national parks supported 33,000 jobs across Canada. Every federal dollar invested in our national parks resulted in $6 being generated for Canada’s economy, while a full 40% of the federal spending was returned to governments in tax revenues. Not a bad return on investment!
So, assuming I can dig my way out of the snowbank tomorrow morning, I’ll be making the case on the Hill that an investment in nature and our parks is a win-win opportunity for nature, for communities, and for the economy. Wish me luck!
You can read our full recommendations document here.
An excerpt from the Fall 2013 issue of Canadian Wilderness
The beauty of natural landscapes appeals to people the world over, Canadians no more so than the Chinese or Columbians or Croatians. Rolling hills, grasslands, mountains, forests, deserts, tundra: they speak to our sense of aesthetics at a primeval level. The allure is timeless: humans are as attracted today to the natural splendour of the outdoors as they were 1,000 years ago. What has changed over the last 50 years is what we know and how we think about natural landscapes.
When the National and Provincial Parks Association of Canada (NPPAC), the forerunner to CPAWS, was founded in 1963, it was in part a response to a call from Alvin Hamilton, then Minister of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources in the Diefenbaker government. In the summer of 1960, Hamilton reminded his colleagues in the House of Commons, some of whom were urging him to consider hosting the winter Olympics in Banff National Park, that the fundamental purpose of parks is to preserve them for “the thousands who want these parks and who want them for their quietness and beauty and relief from the pressures of this civilization.”
It’s easy to see why Dinosaur Provincial Park became recognized as a World Heritage Site.
Driving down from the familiar prairies into the alien landscapes of the Red Deer River floodplain stirs the imagination of child and adult alike. I remember as a kid being completely awestruck by the eroded steppes of the Alberta badlands. Once you are standing on the bottom formation, carved hills and hoodoos towering before you (and with a child’s mind overflowing with images of dinosaurs), you are transported back in time, encircled by volcanoes!
The high, round-topped mounds that people enjoy sitting sagely upon are of course not volcanoes; their slopes were engraved by water, not lava. However, they do act as mountain summits for aspiring explorers. Every gained height lends a new perspective on the topography and around every ridge is another surprising geologic feature. There are many eroded out caves and curious holes in the ground as well as interesting patterns overlaid onto different colored strata.
Guest post by Catherine Angellen, CPAWS donor and Get Outside B.C. volunteer
Way back in the 1980s, when environmental groups in Canada were fledglings, there was only one way my husband and I thought about participating. It was simple: Give money.
To start, we bought memberships for ourselves. If a group was publishing calendars, we didn’t fret about gift ideas for friends and relatives. We faithfully subscribed to the glossy magazines put out by organizations as a benefit of membership. (Editor David Dodge, of CPAWS’ Borealis magazine, even welcomed my queries and in 1990 published my first feature length story in the magazine.)
Environmental groups dreamed up new ways to solicit financial support. And you name it, we bought it. Throughout our peak working and earning years, we were too busy to respond to requests that regularly arrived via snail mail. By making contributions that were deducted each month from our bank account, we put the matter of giving out of our minds. We signed petitions and sent copies of pre-drafted letters to ministers of the environment and CEOs of logging and mining companies. We wanted to make a difference and in some impersonal way, our cash donations probably helped. Yet during the decades that we were members of environmental groups, we never actually met any of their dedicated staff and volunteers.