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House of Commons Committee Report Recommends Scaled Up Action on Protected Natural Areas


OTTAWA - CPAWS welcomes the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development’s report on protected areas, tabled today in the House of Commons, that makes sweeping recommendations to the federal government to expand and improve Canada’s protected areas networks to reverse the declining health of our country’s ecosystems.

The report highlights the need for longer term thinking and larger-scale and better connected protected areas networks, for improving the quality of protected areas by upgrading legislation and policies and ensuring international standards are met, and for investing in better management and ecological monitoring of protected areas.  The Committee also recognizes that the federal government needs to work collaboratively with other jurisdictions, including Indigenous governments and civil society to be successful, and provides a suite of recommendations for how to achieve this.

“We are pleased the Committee recognizes the urgent need for more federal attention and funding for expanding and improving the quality of Canada’s protected areas networks,” said Alison Woodley, National Director of CPAWS’ Parks Program. “While reaching our international commitment of protecting at least 17 percent of land and 10 percent of the ocean by 2020 is a critical next step, the evidence is clear that, beyond 2020, we need to scale up protection dramatically to effectively conserve nature.”

“On marine protected areas, we are particularly pleased the report recommends upgrading federal laws to provide minimum protection standards and enshrine ecological integrity as the management goal,” said Sabine Jessen, National Director of CPAWS’ Oceans program.  “As it stands now, many of Canada’s marine protected areas remain open to oil and gas development and large scale industrial fishing within their boundaries, which is hampering their effectiveness in conserving ocean ecosystems.”

Key Committee recommendations to the Government of Canada include:

• placing a greater priority on, and investing more resources to achieve the 2020 protected area targets, and providing consistent ongoing funding to ensure protected areas achieve their conservation objectives
• creating a permanent national conservation body  and advisory committee to lead planning and implementation of the 2020 targets as well as longer term conservation objectives.
• setting more ambitious long term targets than those currently set for 2020 (Aichi Target 11).
• leading a science-based pan Canadian conservation assessment with other jurisdictions and stakeholders to determine what’s needed to effectively conserve biodiversity
• supporting Indigenous and co-managed protected areas, as well as an Indigenous Guardians program, recognizing the contribution they make to conservation and reconciliation efforts (this week’s federal budget provided $25 million in seed funding for such a Guardian program)
upgrading federal legislation for marine protected areas and national marine conservation areas to enshrine ecological integrity as the overriding management priority, to speed up establishment processes, and provide for interim protection measures;
• Developing a strategy to enhance ecological connectivity between protected areas, as well as buffer zones around them.
• Examining the potential of Canada’s ecosystems to store and sequester carbon to contribute to climate change mitigation strategies.
• Implementing and funding management plans, and ecological integrity monitoring programs for federal protected areas.
• Ensuring minimum standards for protected areas, based on international standards.
• Ensuring no federal policy or legislation such as the Mineral and Energy Resource Assessment (MERA) obstructs protected area establishment or impinges on minimum standards.
• Creating a federal protected area system plan, as well as updating the national park system plan to reflect climate change and other landscape scale considerations.
• adopting international guidance (IUCN) for what constitute “other effective area-based conservation measures” under Aichi Target 11
• Conducting strategic environmental assessments to assess their conservation value before disposing of any federal lands, including the native grassland community pastures in Saskatchewan.

In February, federal, provincial, and territorial Ministers and Indigenous leaders announced they would work collaboratively with non-governmental organizations and other interests to achieve the target of 17 and 10 per cent protection by 2020. This is a positive first step to build on.  A parallel process is underway, led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, to achieve the marine target.

In 2010, Canada joined with other signatories to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in committing to protect at least 17 per cent of land and inland waters and 10 per cent of our ocean by 2020, and to improve the quality of our protected area networks. Canada is currently lagging behind the rest of the world in implementing this commitment with only 10.6 per cent of our land and freshwater, and one per cent of our ocean protected, compared to 15 per cent of land and inland waters, and 10 per cent of ocean within national jurisdiction protected globally.

“The Standing Committee report is very strong, and will be an important tool to help Canada deliver on our 2020 commitments, and to scale up protection beyond 2020, which is essential to conserving the healthy ecosystems we all depend on for our well-being,” said Woodley.  “CPAWS has a goal of protecting at least half of Canada’s public land and water, based on evidence that this is what’s needed to save nature. These recommendations will help move Canada forward towards this goal.”

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