Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Can Lead the Way on Protected Areas in Canada OTTAWA – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) launched an important challenge to Canadian decision-makers on the eve of a ministers’ meeting to discuss conservation, wildlife and biodiversity. “Be ambitious, science-based and forward-thinking. You have an incredible opportunity to leave a legacy for future generations,” said Éric Hébert-Daly, CPAWS National Executive Director. For the first time since 1992, Canadian governments will be working together to expand our network of protected areas to conserve nature. CPAWS welcomes this initiative to put nature conservation at the forefront of our nation-building. In 2010, Canada committed to protecting at least 17% of our landscape by 2020 under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. Canada currently lags the world with only 10.7% protected. However, CPAWS has calculated that if governments just implemented their current protected area commitments and proposals by 2020, Canada would get most of the way to this target. “On the 150th anniversary year of Canada’s confederation, there could be no better gift to give Canadians than the gift of well-protected nature. Wilderness is in our soul as Canadians. Our parks and protected areas are potent and iconic symbols of our country, are critical to the survival of wildlife, and to our own survival as human beings,” said Alison Woodley, CPAWS’ Parks Program National Director. “With 90% of our country’s land held in the public trust by provincial, territorial, federal and Indigenous governments, working towards this goal requires collaboration at all levels, but is eminently doable.” CPAWS welcomes the active engagement of all ministers in this process and underlines the important co-leadership of Alberta Parks and Parks Canada of the new Conservation 2020: Pathway to Target 1 Working Group which is dedicated to this effort. Each government’s contribution will make this proposed legacy a reality. “Indigenous governments across Canada must be a key part of this process if we are to be successful,” said Hébert-Daly. “Across Canada, we see leadership from Indigenous governments working to protect large areas of their traditional territories, like the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation’s work to create Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories and Moose Cree First Nation’s work to permanently protect the North French River Watershed in northern Ontario. It is vital governments honour these plans in the spirit of reconciliation and with an eye towards the next 150 years of positive relationships.” “We must also remember that 17% is an important first step,” said Woodley. “While we work to achieve the short-term targets, we should at the same time be looking beyond 2020 and planning for the scaled-up protection needed to protect healthy ecosystems in the long term, based on science and Indigenous knowledge.” CPAWS is also watching to ensure that the efforts to achieve the 17% target do not turn into a creative accounting exercise rather than good, quality conservation efforts. “We will be looking for a clear roadmap for how we will get to the 17% target by 2020, focused not only on the quantity of land protected, but also on the quality. We need to make sure the right areas are protected for biodiversity, and that protection measures are not watered down to make it easier to reach the target,” warned Woodley. “CPAWS is so pleased to see this work taken seriously by governments from across Canada,” said Hébert-Daly. “Conservation is a place where agreement among governments of all stripes can be found and where regional interests can find common ground. We will work enthusiastically with public and indigenous governments, and other interests, to find a successful path to meet the needs of nature. Our well-being depends on the health of our natural world, so protecting nature is in our best interest.” -30- For more information, contact CPAWS Communications Manager, Stacy Corneau at 613-569-7226 ext 234 or scorneau@localhost. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land and water and ensuring our parks are managed to protect the biodiversity within them. Over the last 50+ years, CPAWS has played a lead role in protecting over half a million square kilometres – an area bigger than the entire Yukon Territory. Our vision is to protect at least half of our public land and water so that future generations can experience Canada’s irreplaceable wilderness. CPAWS has chapters in almost every province and territory across Canada. As a collaborative organization, CPAWS works closely with government of all levels, industry representatives, and communities to manage our impact on a shared landscape. We also advocate for the creation of parks and protected areas for the benefit of both current and future generations of Canadians.