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World Parks Congress: rich in information and inspiring connections

My day started by attending an interesting conservation science session on achieving biodiversity outcomes in protected areas. There's a broad concensus that parks do work to protect biodiversity, but that their success depends in part on investing in strong management measures. John Robinson from the Wildlife Conservation Society reminded us that there are many large mammals, like tigers and elephants, whose ranges have collapsed into parks and protected areas, which act as their last refuges, and important sources for these species to return to the larger landscape. He also pointed out the importance of managing parks as part of the broader landscape because they are generally not big enough on their own to sustain wide- ranging species. This is certainly the case in Canada, and one of the reasons CPAWS is working on large landscape scale conservation initiatives like the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.

Valerie Courtois presents on indigenous leadership on conservation in Canada 

Next was an excellent session on North American Indigenous protected areas. Valerie Courtois from the Aboriginal Leadership Initiative, shared a powerful overview of how indigenous peoples are leading the way on conservation in many parts of Canada. She shared how elders in her own Innu community say that "to be Innu we need caribou", and that means the stakes "are very, very high" for her community and others in the boreal forest. This leads to a sense of cultural responsibility that is being translated into planning in the boreal forest, andBwhich then needs to be translated into shared stewardship.

Steven Nitah Lutsel K'e First Nations presents on Thaidene Nene

Steven Nitah followed with a great presentation about Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation's work to create the Thaidene Nene protected area around the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. There was lots of interest in Lutsel K'e's innovative partnership approach, and admiration for the beautiful banner showcasing spectacular northern lights of Thaidene Nene.  After the talk Steven ran an impromptu Thaidene Nene trivia contest to distribute t-shirts. The good news is that lots of people could answer the questions, so clearly they were listening closely to his presentation!

Representatives from Nunavik in northern Quebec  presented their work on protected areas planning in collaboration with local communities. Patrick Nadeau and the team from CPAWS' QC chapter have been working with these folks for a number of years, including on the creation of Tursujuq Park in 2012, which is the largest provincial park in Canada, and the biggest protected area in eastern North America!

CPAWS' Sabine Jessen on food security

This afternoon CPAWS Oceans program director, Sabine Jessen, participated on a panel on food security and marine protected areas. The discussion focused largely on trade-offs required to establish marine protected areas. Sabine emphasized the important point that well-designed and well managed MPA's can contribute to sustainable fisheries, and that the discussion should focus on how to establish networks of MPA's that will conserve biodiversity and contribute to sustainable fisheries. She also pointed out that in Canada, coastal and First Nations communities are showing leadership in efforts to create networks of marine protected areas, citing the BC coastal planning process as an example.

I then moved on to an exciting session discussing what long term targets could be set to take us beyond the Aichi targets, which commit countries to protect at least 17% of land and 10% of oceans by 2020.  The idea that Nature Needs Half featured prominently in the discussion, with the Zoological Society of London presenting the results of their global public opinion poll on how much people around the world want protected.  This was followed by Harvey Locke who pointed out that the current targets are NOT based in science, and that science based recommendations are more consistent with the idea that half of land and oceans should be protected for nature. There were several presentations exploring how protecting half for nature could deliver ecosystem services to people, as well as reminders of the importance of including a human dimension in how areas are protected. It's exciting to see the momentum building globally for the idea of protecting at least half of lands and waters, which is CPAWS vision for Canada.

I ended the day at a lovely event showcasing Pimachiowin Aki proposed World Heritage Site that straddles the Manitoba-Ontario border on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.  Representatives from the Poplar River First Nation shared stories about their tireless work to have their vast Boreal forest homeland recognized as a World Heritage Site recognizing the intimate relationship they have with their Boreal forest home. The evening ended with other indigenous people from Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan sharing their songs and stories, including a didgeridoo performance, and then everyone joining in a drum dance led by the folks from PImachiowin Aki.

What a day it was at the World Parks Congress! Rich in information, and inspiring connections.