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Election Primer 2011: Where do our politicians stand on wilderness conservation?

You can ask your federal candidates this simple question when they come to your door:

If elected, will you support protection of at least half of Canada’s land and water?

Background information:

The federal government can do a lot to protect more of Canada’s precious and irreplaceable wilderness. So far, only 10% of Canada’s public land, and less than 1% of our oceans and great freshwater lakes are protected from industrial development.

Over 90% of Canada’s land and ALL of our oceans and great lakes are publicly owned.
Over 600 species are at risk of extinction in Canada and the number is growing, largely because their habitat is being destroyed. With climate change further stressing fragile ecosystems, the need for large-scale conservation action has never been more urgent.

Protecting significantly more of Canada’s land and water is one of the most important steps the federal government can take to safeguard our environment and shield against the impacts of global warming. 

What can the federal government do to protect Canada’s land and water?

  1. Pick up the pace on creating new national parks and ensure they are managed to protect their ecological integrity. 
    For decades, Canada’s goal has been to protect examples of each of Canada’s 39 distinct natural regions in the national parks system.  Eleven of these natural regions still have no national parks, and many of our existing parks are too small to protect wildlife.  By 2015, the federal government should establish 11 new national parks, and expand four existing parks.  They should also work with partners to ensure our parks are linked together so wildlife can move through the landscape in response to climate change.

    National parks not only protect some of our most spectacular wilderness areas, they conserve biodiversity, provide clean air and water, store enormous amounts of carbon, and contribute to the economy.  Canada’s national, provincial and territorial parks contribute $2.5 billion dollars per year to the Canadian economy, and support 60,000 jobs.
  2. Speed up progress on a network of marine protected areas.
    Canada committed to completing our system of marine protected areas by 2012, but with one year to go, we have barely begun. Meanwhile the health of our oceans and great freshwater lakes continues to decline dramatically.  CPAWS is asking the federal government to complete 12 more marine protected areas by the end of 2012, as a first step towards meeting our commitment.
  3. Develop a conservation plan for Canada that will protect the health of Canada’s natural environment and help respond to climate change.
    The federal government should take the lead and convene federal and provincial/territorial governments, Aboriginal Peoples, conservationists, industry and community leaders to tackle the urgent challenge of protecting healthy ecosystems in the face of climate change.  This plan should focus on securing at least half of Canada’s land and water in a connected network of protected areas, and ensuring sustainable practices on the rest.
  4. Implement the Species at Risk Act.
    The federal Species at Risk Act was passed in 2003 but progress to protect endangered species has been slow. Meanwhile, more and more species are at risk of extinction. The government should speed up progress on implementing the Act by protecting habitat for disappearing wildlife like Boreal woodland caribou.
  5. Protect Canada’s North.
    The federal government has significant responsibilities for Canada’s North, particularly in the NWT and Nunavut. With oil and gas and mining development expanding rapidly northward, the federal government should work with Aboriginal communities and other partners to protect large areas of land and water, and complete land use plans before large scale industrial development proceeds.
  6. Support the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement 
    Leading conservation groups, including CPAWS, and major forestry companies have signed an agreement to work together to conserve a vast area of Canada’s boreal forest, in consultation with First Nations and other governments. The federal government should support this agreement financially because it offers a ground-breaking opportunity to achieve a sustainable forest industry in Canada.