Despite everything, there is still hope for nature
For the first time in human history, our environmental impacts are happening at a scale that is affecting all life on Earth. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that time may be running out for effective action on climate change. Our list of globally threatened wildlife has grown to more than 26,500 species, and many wildlife populations are declining. In Canada, iconic wildlife like caribou are in trouble and the Atlantic whitefish, perhaps Canada’s most endangered species, may be doomed to extinction.
Our current environmental issues — from climate change to biodiversity loss — are the result of many collective impacts. However, there are examples of hope from 2018 as we enter 2019.
PROTECTED AREAS GROW
Parks and protected areas now top 20 million square kilometres — about 15 per cent of the planet’s lands and inland waters. Through the collective conservation efforts of all nations, it appears we will meet the global target of protecting 17 per cent by 2020. In Canada, more than 20 per cent of Nunavik in northern Quebec is now protected and our first Indigenous protected area was established: the Edéhzhíe Protected Area in the Northwest Territories.
The federal government continued to support private land conservation efforts through the Natural Areas Conservation Program. It also announced $1.3 billion over five years to protect Canada’s lands, oceans and wildlife.
KEEPING FISH IN THE SEA
Between 2016 and 2018, the amount of marine protected areas in the world increased from 10.2 per cent to 16.8 per cent. There were also many important initiatives in place to reduce unsustainable fishing practices.
BIG PARKS AND BIG CORRIDORS
The province released plans to establish more protected areas in Bighorn Country and the Nature Conservancy of Canada unveiled the Jim Prentice Wildlife Corridor project. New and expanded parks were established around Wood Buffalo National Park, including the Birch River Wildland Provincial Park, with contributions by the Tallcree Tribal Government, NCC, the governments of Alberta and Canada and Syncrude Canada. It created the largest protected boreal forest in the world.
CONSERVE AND RESTORE IT
In 2018, a den of swift foxes was discovered on an NCC property in Alberta. In Newfoundland and Labrador, World Wildlife Fund Canada restored a beach that allowed capelin to return and spawn.
BIG HOPE IN A SMALL PACKAGE
Fewer than 100 Poweshiek skippering butterflies remain in Canada. This small butterfly is restricted to southeastern Manitoba and a site near Flint, Mich. This population got just a little larger when the Assiniboine Park Conservancy conservation and research department successfully released six captive-reared butterflies at NCC’s Tall Grass Prairie Natural Area.
KEY BIODIVERSITY AREAS
Many conflicts between resource development and conservation occur because important areas for nature have not been identified early in the planning process.
Key Biodiversity Areas is a global effort to map these places around the world. In Canada, Important Bird Areas and some freshwater KBAs were announced, with more to be identified by the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada and partners.
NATURE FOR ALL
The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s new publication: Connecting with Nature to Care for Ourselves and the Earth is a useful guide to linking nature with our own well-being.