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Environmental Commissioner’s report underlines need for federal action on biodiversity: CPAWS


Ottawa – In response to the Interim Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development’s report tabled today, indicating that Canada is lagging in meeting our commitments to protect biodiversity, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is calling on the federal government to take this responsibility more seriously by making wise investments and galvanizing action at all levels of society that will benefit Canadians, wildlife and the entire planet.

Act now to meet our international commitments

“Canada is failing to meet our international commitments to protect biodiversity, and we urgently need a plan to fix this problem. Our ecosystems are in decline and the number of species at risk is increasing each year. Human pressures on Canada’s ecosystems from resource development are at an all-time high,” says CPAWS spokeswoman Alison Woodley.

As a signatory to the 2010 UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada has agreed to five strategic goals and 20 targets, including protection of at least 17% of our terrestrial and freshwater, and 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020. Currently Canada has protected 10% of our land and 1% of our oceans.

“We’re recommending that the federal government invest immediately in conserving our land, freshwater and ocean environments in a focused, comprehensive and big-thinking way. Canada needs a roadmap focused on achieving the targets we agreed to. We believe the national conservation plan, re-confirmed in the recent Speech from the Throne, offers the opportunity to move to the large land and seascape conservation work that’s needed to actually protect the health and resilience of our ecosystems. Let’s get on with it,” says Woodley.

Fix problems facing our national parks

The Commissioner’s report raises serious questions about whether Parks Canada can assure Canadians that our national parks will be well protected into the future, noting that less than half of park ecosystems are in good condition and that threats to parks are increasing. The report concludes that in the wake of significant federal budget cuts, Parks Canada is unlikely to be able to fully implement the ecological integrity program that is critical to tackle threats to park ecosystems.

This reinforces CPAWS' conclusions in its July State of Canada’s Parks Report 2013 that threats to our national parks are significant and increasing..

“To safeguard our treasured national parks we need more attention and resources paid to protecting park ecosystems, not less. The irony of budget cuts to Parks Canada’s program is that we have very clear evidence that investing in national parks is an effective investment in Canada’s economy. Because of their unspoiled natural beauty and wildlife, national parks are economic engines. They support 33,000 jobs across Canada, and generate $6 to the GDP for every dollar spent by the federal government, according to its own research,” adds Woodley.

In the lead-up to Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, CPAWS is recommending that the federal government invest $20 million per year to create new parks and $20 million per year in Parks Canada's science-based conservation program to protect our national parks.

Species at risk continue to need attention

There are now 650 wildlife species assessed by COSEWIC as being at risk of extinction in Canada.The report highlights that the government has still not met its legal requirements under the federal Species At Risk Act to creating recovery strategies, action plans and management plans.

“The federal Species at Risk Act is critically important as it is the ‘emergency room’ for biodiversity and provides a consistent nation-wide standard for protection and a critical backstop to the uneven patchwork of endangered species legislation that exists in provinces and territories,” says Woodley.

“Over the past few years we’ve noted some progress in both the number and quality of recovery strategies that have been produced under the Species at Risk Act, which is a positive development. However, while the Recovery Strategy process is improving, there is still a great deal of work to do to complete action plans, and to get to timely on-the-ground action to protect habitat that species actually need to recover,” adds Woodley. 

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For interviews, contact: Ellen Adelberg, eadelberg@cpaws.org or Alison Woodley, awoodley@cpaws.org

Click here for the full report: http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_cesd_201311_e_38658.html

CPAWS is Canada’s voice for wilderness. In 50 years we’ve led in creating over two-thirds of Canada’s protected areas. That amounts to about half a million square kilometres. Our vision is that Canada will protect at least half of our public land and water. As a national charity with 13 chapters, 60,000 supporters and hundreds of volunteers, CPAWS works collaboratively with governments, local communities, industry and indigenous peoples to protect our country’s amazing natural places. We’re also on guard to ensure that our parks are managed to protect the nature within them.