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2017 started out strong and didn’t disappoint!

There have been times when I’ve heard CPAWS-ers say how much they appreciate working in a nationwide organization so that when success seems harder to achieve in their own backyard, we can still share in the celebration of hard-won victories in other parts of the country. This wasn’t one of those years.

2017 started out strong and didn’t disappoint – in every region of this country.

In my 15 years of organizational leadership, I’ve never seen a team work so hard and be rewarded with such success. From winning the Supreme Court case on the Peel watershed in the Yukon, to a good-quality marine protected area in St. Ann’s Bank off the coast of Nova Scotia – CPAWS, along with our indigenous partners across Canada, have been tremendously successful at protecting more of Canada’s nature.

Here’s some of the impressive progress we participated in delivering:

  • The Peel Watershed victory in court means the groundwork is laid for protecting an area the size of New Brunswick in this important part of the world;
  • The BC and Federal Governments are back in discussions about the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve after years of foot-dragging;
  • The Glass Sponge Reefs on the west coast were finally protected – and are even lined up for World Heritage status;
  • Our NWT chapter has been involved in shaping the legislation for new protected areas in the territory, which will be the basis for the creation of Thaidene Nene on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake;
  • The Castle Wilderness in southern Alberta was formally designated and protected;
  • The Bighorn region in northern Alberta is now on the lips of decision-makers;
  • In Saskatchewan, our chapter has been pushing hard against the backwards step of removing public pastures and undermining their protected area status;
  • In Manitoba, we celebrated the creation of new protected islands in Lake Winnipegosis;
  • The Rouge National Urban Park got the nature-first protection it deserved – and some lands added to it as well;
  • The Dumoine River interim protection area was expanded in west Quebec;
  • The Montagnes Blanches in Quebec was identified as a 10,000 km2 new protected area in critical caribou habitat;
  • The Premier of New Brunswick spoke openly about protecting some important areas in the Restigouche after years of campaigning on the part of our NB chapter;
  • 15 new protected areas were formally established in Nova Scotia;
  • A high-quality marine protected area was announced in St. Ann’s Bank, off the east coast of Nova Scotia;
  • After years of asking for the release of the Natural Area Systems Plan in Newfoundland and Labrador, the House of Assembly did a two-hour debate on protected areas and got unanimous support for creating more protected areas in the province;
  • After launching a nationwide process and National Advisory Panel earlier in the year, the Federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change appointed four CPAWS staff, trustees and former trustees to the Panel, including in the role of co-chair;
  • Our efforts to get better management for our National Parks, limiting commercial development within their boundaries and improving science capacity resulted in the largest public consultation on Parks Canada earlier this year. A report is expected on the minister’s findings early in the new year;
  • Important work continues on making sure that the quality of protected areas isn’t lost in the race to reach quantity. CPAWS is actively engaged on standard-setting so that Canada is aligned with international standards for protected areas;
  • Our caribou lawsuit will wind its way into court in 2018. It is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to knowing what is happening across Canada on protecting caribou habitat and central to the role of the federal government.

While we are celebrating more successes than we have in a long time, it's still a long way from where we ultimately need to be. In our recently released report, 2017 Year in Review: Protecting Canada's Land and Freshwater, we highlighted where governments have made progress and where there is still much to be done. (Read the report here)

We’ve had a great track record over the years, but I don’t think we’ve seen a year like this before. And by all accounts the next three years are going to be as busy, if not busier as we continue to push all governments to meet the protected areas target. There is a tremendous amount of work to do and it will be “all-hands-on-deck”.

To our staff team across Canada, my deepest appreciation. I know that the hours can get long and the work can be hard – but your passion and dedication continue to inspire me.

To our funders and donors, know that these successes belong to you as well. Without you, none of these accomplishments are possible.

To our indigenous partners in conservation, thank you for your vision and depth that keep us rooted in right-relations with each other and with our planet.

To governments and decision-makers, with 90% of our land and 100% of our ocean being held in the public trust, your leadership is needed more than ever. 2017 was an important starting point, but we need everyone to step up in 2018 and beyond if we are to be successful. Our own survival depends on it.

To our activists and supporters, your voice matters. Without you, decision-makers will always see nature conservation as a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than a ‘must-have’. When you take action, you create the space for good outcomes. In the coming years, we need you more than ever.

And, finally, to our board members at the national and chapter levels, thank you for your hours of volunteerism and for keeping us all accountable and heading in the right direction. Your ability to stand back and see the big picture is essential to our long-term success.

2017 was great. Given how things are going, the momentum in 2018 is going to lead us to even better outcomes. May it be so for all of us and for the generations that follow who will look back on this time of positive change with gratitude.

Éric Hébert-Daly
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
National Executive Director