Protecting Canadian Wilderness

In celebration of the International Year of Forests, Global Forest Watch Canada released a report which looked at protected terrestrial and freshwater areas in Canada and analyzed their effectiveness in achieving conservation goals. According to the report, Canada has protected approximately 8.5% of its wilderness, which falls behind the global average of 13%. And when compared to the 20% that Cambodia and Thailand set aside or the 30% that Guatemala protects, or even the 15% that the U.S. protects, 8.5% does not seem like much.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWSreacted to the report with cautious praise and optimism, but several criticisms as well. CPAWS National Conservation Director Alison Woodley suggests that Canada should take a leadership role in conservation, saying that, “With our vast and relatively intact landscape, Canada has a huge opportunity to become a world leader in protected areas. We need to step up to the challenge”.

Pinware River LabradorIn general, Canada seems to be moving in the right direction. In the past decade alone, the percentage of temporary and permanently protected land has increased from 6.6% to 12%. This includes the creation or expansion of national parks in areas such as the Northwest Territories, Newfoundland and Labrador. But the status of some of these temporarily protected areas remains uncertain, and there is concern that they may one day become again available to industry.

Ideally, CPAWS believes that Canada should protect at least half of its public lands and waters. Some provinces are moving towards this goal. Ontario, for example, has committed to protecting at least half of its northern boreal forest, while Quebec has committed to protect half of the northern areas of the province from industrial development. But it remains concerning that other provinces, such as New Brunswick, are stagnating in the effort to protect Canada’s wilderness. Continued work is required for Canada to move closer towards the goal of conserving its biodiversity and slowing the effects of habitat loss and industry.

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Alison Wheatley

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