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2013: The Year in Conservation

It’s hard for me to believe that 2013 has come and gone! It was an action-packed 12 months for CPAWS, full of wilderness conservation challenges and successes from coast to coast to coast.

2013 kicked off a very special 12-month period for us. In October 1963, our organization first saw the light of day. We’re now celebrating 50 years of being at the forefront of conserving Canada’s public lands and water. We’ve led in the protection of just over half a million square kilometres – that’s 50 million hectares – of wilderness in Canada. That's bigger than the entire Yukon Territory. If you haven’t already, please take a journey through time to the amazing places we’ve helped conserve.

2013 also brought many challenges to conservation. We’ve been meeting them head on, some with quicker success than others. 

In the spring, with help from supporters, we revved into high gear with local community partners on a campaign to protect Gros Morne National Park from proposed oil drilling and fracking within metres of its boundary. Dozens of media interviews, active local campaigns amongst tourists in the park, quick responses from our supporters, advertising in multiple media outlets and thorough science-based responses to decision-makers – all brought us a tremendous level of success. All this was a result of people like you, our generous supporters and activists.

We cheered a fracking moratorium announced in Newfoundland and Labrador on November 4th, but were still anxious that traditional drilling might proceed next to Gros Morne. But happily, we were able to cheer again on December 5th, when the offshore petroleum board announced it would not renew thee licenses to develop explore for oil and gas resources off the Gros Morne coast were not renewed by the offshore petroleum board.

This was a fantastic victory – and positions us well for the next step in this campaign in 2014, gaining a permanent buffer zone around the park so that industrial development proposals can’t resurface in the future.

After years of work and investment to identify areas for protection, CPAWS’ - Nova Scotia chapter and its partners welcomed the final announcement of a government plan to protect 13% of the province’s land this fall. Pretty amazing accomplishment, considering Nova Scotia is a highly settled landscape with a big human footprint! They have now protected a higher percentage of their landscape than Canada has nationally.

Also in Nova Scotia, we welcomed Sable Island National Park’s final establishment. This amazing stretch of sand dunes about 200kms south of mainland Nova Scotia is now Canada’s newest National Park.

At the start of 2013, you may recall that we were also quite worried that the Species at Risk Act might be weakened significantly. As the year ends, we’re breathing a cautious sigh of relief. After working behind the scenes with industry associations and other groups – we jointly provided advice to the minister in the fall about how to better implement the Act. So far, this proactive approach is working.  We will continue these efforts over the coming year to ensure that endangered species continue to have strong federal legal protection.

In New Brunswick, where provincial parks have no ecological protection in law, the government finally responded to our calls for a formal review of the Parks Act, which may offer these special places better protection in future.

In Quebec, our chapter welcomed the government’s long awaited release of a better mining bill. This bill is not perfect, but once enacted, will go a long way to reducing environmental impacts before, during and after a mine’s operations.

CPAWS’ Ottawa Valley chapter launched a great new program of guided nature hikes for school-aged children and a project to better understand the impacts of roads on the area’s natural regions.

Our Wildlands League chapter took the drastic step in 2013 of partnering with other groups to take the Ontario government to court for undermining its own Endangered Species Act. They’ve also been raising the public profile of the threats to Ontario’s northern “Ring of Fire” region which is slated for massive mining development in the most intact and pristine parts of the Boreal forest.

In the Yukon, our chapter continues to campaign for the solid land use plan that was developed for the Peel Watershed –the greatest constellation of wild mountain rivers left in North America. Sadly, it appears that the territorial government is moving to ignore the recommendations of the independent Peel Watershed Planning Commission– which, if approved, would have meant significant long-term protection for the region. Thousands of people have expressed their support for the plan and we will be continuing to work with local First Nations in 2014 to urge the government to respect the Commission’s recommendations.

We released a nation-wide report on the spotty progress towards establishing marine protected areas on all of Canada’s coasts in January. And to highlight the need for protection, CPAWS BC chapter organized some spectacular submarine dives to the Glass Sponge Reefs in October.

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement continues to be one of the largest projects of our nation-wide family. We’re getting closer to identifying new protected areas and caribou recovery plans in many regions of the country and are expecting some great results to announce in 2014.

Our national parks face mounting development pressures.  We continue to fight against inappropriate development proposals in our Rocky Mountain National Parks, including a resort at Maligne Lake in Jasper; and to fight for proper environmental and public review processes.  At the same time we were pleased to see Parks Canada make some helpful wildlife management decisions. In Jasper, ski access to some backcountry areas where caribou are still surviving by a thread is being delayed to help protect caribou from predators in the winter. And in Banff, park management will implement springtime overnight closures of the Banff-Bow Valley Parkway starting in 2014 to help lessen the pressures on wildlife. We also welcomed a plan to reintroduce wild free-roaming bison to Banff National Park. Our annual report on the state of Canada’s Parks generated over 50 media reports and has been an effective way to highlight the good and bad news about our parks.

We were happy to welcome further signs of progress towards the creation of new national parks in places like the east arm of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories and the first National Urban Park in Canada in the Rouge Valley near Toronto. We continue our work to ensure that these new parks are created with ecologically sound boundaries and strong conservation measures.

All that we do is made possible through the support of you, our generous donors. We can only bring our experienced team and our ability to act quickly to conserve wilderness because of your support. Charity Intelligence recognized us as its’ top pick for environmental habitat conservation charity in Canada this year. It’s a nice recognition, but it belongs to you.

People like you, who take action when we alert you to breaking news, are core to CPAWS’ ability to be effective. People like you, who contribute financially so that we can protect even more of Canada’s spectacular wilderness, are the reason CPAWS exists. We gratefully appreciate the time, effort and advice from supporters like you.

As 2014 dawns, we anticipate a new year full of challenges and victories. We’ll be working hard to protect more of Canada’s oceans, stay on guard for our precious parks, and conserve more habitat for the amazing wildlife within our borders. Your support and encouragement can help us make it the best year yet.

On behalf of the entire CPAWS team across Canada, thank you for the last 50 years. Thanks for investing your time and resources in our common objective: protection of our parks and wilderness for generations to come.

Yours in conservation,

Éric Hébert-Daly
National Executive Director