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Park dreaming instead of day dreaming

Working for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, it has definitely opened my eyes to the beauty of our country. Before I started at CPAWS, the idea of “Canada” seemed foreign to me. I know that seems absurd, but it’s the truth. When I thought of Canada, the images that came to mind were my friends' cottages, snow and hockey.  The actual country and its land never occurred to me. For this reason, whenever I planned my getaways, I always thought of going abroad. I would dream of trips to Boston or Italy. Until about a year ago, I didn’t grasp exactly how absolutely stunning Canada is, and how lucky we are to have such a gorgeous country that is so vast and so varied in temperature, scenery, culture, and that is so easily accessible through our National Parks system. 

Since working with CPAWS this has changed. Through the people I’ve met, the stories I’ve heard, the issues I’ve learned about, and the successes I’ve been a part of, it’s like a veil has been lifted from my eyes! When I look at the things on my bucket list today, they all stem from my own backyard. I want to hike on the Jasper Skyline Trail, and skate on the frozen ice in Banff. I NEED to see the stunning wildlife and jaw dropping beauty of the Yukon, and paddle through the majestic Nahanni.  At first, these spaces that we protect seemed so distant to me.  But as I learned more about them, and got to experience them through the eyes and stories of others, I realized that all these spaces are what make Canada Canada!

The opportunity to open the eyes and the minds of others to the experiences that await them in each of our national parks makes me extremely excited about CPAWS’ Park Dreams Contest: What’s on your bucket list?

In celebration of Parks Canada’s 100th Birthday, CPAWS is asking you to share your dream national park experience.  Share in 50 words or less your dream experience that you wish to have in a national park and be eligible to win the grand prize trip for two to the Nahanni courtesy of Nahanni River Adventures.

Visit and start dreaming!

2000 square kilometres in Nova Scotia!

After a number of years of working to identify conservation areas with the Nova Scotia government, CPAWS NS is celebrating an incredible announcement yesterday by the provincial government. 2000 square kilometres of new areas were identified for conservation. In a small province like Nova Scotia, this is pretty impressive.

It's quite an incredible thing for any government to dedicate an additional 3.5% of its land to protected areas at once. It is particularly noteworthy for a province that is so densely populated and has a long history of settlement and development in southern Canada.

Congrats to the Nova Scotia government on taking such visionary leadership for our planet. Well done!

A challenge for Canada on World Oceans Day

I was thrilled to wake up to Monday's Globe and Mail, which featured CPAWS' call to create 12 new marine protected areas by the end of 2012 . With World Oceans Day being today, I really hope that Canada will use it as an opportunity to announce more steps  towards completion of our 12 recommended sites. As the Globe notes, our oceans harbour an amazing array of marine wildlife - from the adorable tufted puffins, to the amazing leatherback turtles, to not so handsome devils like the Atlantic Wolfish.

The creatures under the ocean's surface ARE truly amazing. One of the most important reasons these areas need to be protected is that they're critical breeding grounds, nurseries and refuge for fish and other kinds of marine wildlife throughout their life cycle. I love to eat fish. I suspect you may too. If we want our children and grandchildren to be able to enjoy the taste of wild fish - then let's  protect the habitat these creatures need for their survival, while there's still time!

I think Canada is up for this challenge. What  do you think?

Conservation Gets a Boost from Federal Government

In last week’s Throne Speech, the Federal Government announced an ambitious plan to ‘create significant new protected areas’. A National Conservation Plan, a park in the Rouge River Valley, marine and northern conservation were all mentioned in this important speech that sets out the government’s agenda for the next session of Parliament.

In today’s federal budget, despite a general approach to cutting back federal spending, the government did commit to some partial funding of the creation of the Mealy Mountains National Park. It is important that we understand a key thing about conservation: it is a relatively inexpensive way to improve our environment and to help connect Canadians to our natural heritage. There is significantly more to do, but in the coming years, we look forward to seeing a broad vision that comes out of a National Conservation Plan.

What I’d love to see in such a plan is multi-level involvement (all government levels and indigenous communities) in connecting our wilderness areas so that they allow wildlife to roam unimpeded by human disturbance. With global climate change, north-south corridors are more important than ever. We also need to see new large landscapes protected that help us build towards our goal of protecting at least 50% of Canada’s wilderness. There needs to be sustainable and thoughtful development on the rest of the landscape, particularly in areas that are adjacent to the protected areas. And as you may have seen in today’s Globe and Mail, we also need to do something about our marine ecosystems that are largely unprotected, despite having the world’s longest coastline.

A few steps taken, a much longer journey to travel. I look forward to working with Federal MPs from all parties to help build that vision.

Let’s go outdoors!

As someone who spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid (mostly in the woods), long weekends like the one we just had remind me of how important it is to connect to nature. As an adult and godparent of two little girls, I take my responsibility to them seriously. And as the National Executive Director of CPAWS, I am very concerned about future generations appreciating nature so that they can understand the importance of conserving it.

I was recently shocked to hear about the declining numbers of young people who are enjoying the outdoors. There's a growing sense that there is a Nature Deficit Disorder (see for more details on this problem).

I'm a big fan of musician Jason Mraz - best known in recent years for his hit I'm Yours. He did a fantastic rewrite of his famous song on the hit television kid's show Sesame Street. It's called Let's Go Outdoors.

I encourage you to watch and enjoy it - and to get all the young people you know (yourself included) outdoors this summer.

Summer isn't long enough in Canada to miss a single day. Get out there!

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