On March 24, the House of Commons Environment Committee issued a game-changing report, including numerous, important recommendations to conserve Canada’s biodiversity by protecting more lands, inland waters and oceans. Nature Canada wishes to congratulate the Committee on its unanimous report—especially chair Deb Schulte, vice-chair Jim Eglinski and vice-chair Linda Duncan.
Nature Canada is delighted that the Committee’s starting point is Canada’s 2010 international commitment to protect at least 17 percent of Canada’s land and inland waters and 10 percent of Canada’s oceans by 2020. The Committee recognized that achieving the 2020 targets is essential, a further scaling up of our networks of protected areas is needed to conserve nature. Canada currently protects 10.6 percent of our land and inland waters, and one percent of our oceans.
Key Committee recommendations to the federal government are to:
- Invest more resources to achieve the 2020 protected area targets, and provide consistent ongoing funding to ensure protected areas achieve their conservation objectives;
- Create a permanent national conservation body to lead planning and implementation of the 2020 targets and longer-term conservation objectives;
- Set more ambitious long-term targets than the 2020 targets;
- Lead a pan-Canadian conservation assessment with other jurisdictions and stakeholders to determine what’s needed to effectively conserve biodiversity;
- Support Indigenous and co-managed protected areas, as well as an Indigenous Guardians program ($25 million was included in this week’s budget for a Guardians program);
- Examine the potential of Canada’s ecosystems to store and sequester carbon to contribute to climate change mitigation;
- Implement and fund management plans, and ecological integrity monitoring programs for federal protected areas;
- Ensure minimum standards for protected areas based on international standards;
- Create a federally protected area system plan that would include National Wildlife Areas, National Parks and other federal protected areas; and
- Conduct strategic environmental assessments to assess their conservation value before disposing of any federal lands, including the former PFRA community pasture grasslands in Saskatchewan.
Eleanor Fast and Alex Macdonald of Nature Canada testified before the Environment Committee, and Nature Canada submitted a written brief as well. We were pleased to see that the Committee’s report reflected a number of themes that we presented.
The government is required under House of Commons rules to respond to the Committee’s report. That response had better be good!