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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!

Can Canada dare to be deep?

How does that joke go? I have good news and bad news—which do you want first? When it comes to conserving Canada’s oceans and great freshwater lakes, there is certainly a mix of both, and if we want to move the balance more toward the good than the bad, then we’re going to need your help.

Happy birthday, Parks Canada!

Parks Canada 100th anniversaryIt’s a big one this year. One hundred years. Not too many centenarians around in Canada these days, but thank goodness our national parks agency is not just alive and kicking at 100 – it’s vibrant and poised for even greater successes in its next century.

To this day, unbelievably beautiful Canadian natural treasures like Banff and Jasper National Parks give many of us a reason to greet the morning with a smile and hope. From the very first national parks in the Rocky Mountains, to later additions in the majestic highlands of Cape Breton, the grasslands of Saskatchewan, Yukon’s Kluane, the NWT’s awe-inspiring Nahanni, and the recently-added Torngat Mountains in Labrador, we cherish the natural wonders protected within our national parks.

CPAWS began in 1963, not even 50 years ago. But still we feel in some ways like a proud parent of our national parks agency. The inspiration for CPAWS’ founding was the very deep love of our country’s wilderness, along with our recognition that individual Canadians can play an important role in supporting our national and provincial parks.

Our national parks are places where wildlife  finds sanctuary from the harsh effects of modern human “growth”, where humans nourish and re-nourish our souls, where people from far and wide come to wonder at the natural world still found within our country’s borders. Our hope is that over the next few years, we’ll complete a system of national parks that protects examples of the full diversity of Canada’s magnificent landscapes, and a network of marine protected areas in all of our oceans.

In fact, our hope is that one hundred years from now, national parks will be part of a comprehensive network of protected areas covering at least half of Canada!

What do you think the next 100 years will bring? What’s your hope for the future of our national parks? Please share your thoughts.

Work and play in Chignecto Wilderness

Just back from the CPAWS Board of Trustees meeting at Mount Allison University in Sackville NB.  Lots of good discussion about our progress on conservation, how to promote legacy giving and broaden our base of supporters, and how to strengthen our relationships with aboriginal people, whose support is required to create new protected areas in much of Canada.  The organization is in good health these days.  Some difference of opinions is part of that, but we came to agreement on all of the urgent matters.

Fifteen intense hours of meetings is about the limit of productivity.  However, a university town in the off season can be very, very quiet.  A coffee house gathered some local talent to entertain us one evening, which was very charming.  
The real highlight of the meeting, however, was a field trip to a new protected area.  CPAWS Nova Scotia and the local Cumberland Wilderness group have been campaigning to protect the Chignecto wilderness.  Just a week before we arrived, the provincial government announced plans to protect the interior forests of the new Kelley River Wilderness Area and almost 40 km of rugged Bay of Fundy coastline in the new Raven Head Wilderness Area.  

Our busload of CPAWS trustees and staff from across Canada met up with members of Cumberland Wilderness to explore a little of Raven Head.  Since there are no trails yet, we had to slog through the underbrush and swampy ground to reach the Fundy shore, but then we had a great ramble along the rocky coast.  Fortunately, the locals warned us in time so we got off the rocks before getting a little too “up close and personal” with the huge Fundy tides.  
The attached photo from a local newspaper shows our group just before we made a hasty escape.  That’s your President in the foreground getting ready by tying his shoelace.  

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