Pro­tect Canada’s parks says study

Co-au­thor of study says Canada’s en­dan­gered species are in dan­ger due to high hu­man traf­fic

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - CAMILLE BAINS

VAN­COU­VER — Canada is a global leader in pro­tect­ing its con­served land from hu­man de­struc­tion, but its parks are in dan­ger of be­ing “loved to death.” says a co-au­thor of a study that de­tails the degra­da­tion of one-third of the world’s pro­tected ar­eas.

Os­car Venter, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of forestry in the Ecosys­tems Science and Man­age­ment depart­ment at the Univer­sity of North­ern Bri­tish Columbia, said Banff and Jasper are ex­am­ples of iconic parks in Canada where a high num­ber of visi­tors pose a chal­lenge to main­tain­ing healthy pop­u­la­tions of some en­dan­gered species.

“In Canada, we value our nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, but we also put a lot of value on nat­u­ral re­source ex­trac­tion,” he ex­plained.

Venter is part of an in­ter­na­tional team of re­searchers, in­clud­ing from the Univer­sity of Queens­land in Aus­tralia and the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety, whose work was pub­lished Thurs­day in the jour­nal Science. It looked at 50,000 pro­tected ar­eas world­wide and found one-third of the area is un­der in­tense pres­sure from ac­tiv­i­ties like road build­ing, log­ging and ur­ban­iza­tion.

Most of the degra­da­tion was in Asia, Europe and Africa — in ar­eas that were in­tact when they were des­ig­nated as pro­tected, the study says, adding there’s an ur­gent need for coun­tries around the world to ob­jec­tively as­sess the im­pact of hu­man ac­tiv­ity.

The find­ings are a re­al­ity check on the ef­fort to avert the bio­di­ver­sity cri­sis, said se­nior au­thor James Wat­son, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in the School of Earth and En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ences at the Univer­sity of Queens­land and di­rec­tor of Science and Re­search Ini­tia­tive at the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety.

“We show that gov­ern­ments are sig­nif­i­cantly over­es­ti­mat­ing the space they have made avail­able for na­ture,” he said in a state­ment. “Gov­ern­ments are claim­ing these places are pro­tected for the sake of na­ture when in re­al­ity they aren’t.”

Wat­son said 111 coun­tries be­lieve they have met their obli­ga­tions to­ward the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity, which set a global goal in 2010 for na­tions to pro­tect at least 17 per cent of their land by 2020.

Venter said that while 2.5 per cent of Canada’s pro­tected area has been mod­i­fied by hu­mans, there are chal­lenges to man­ag­ing the im­pact of hu­man dis­tur­bance to en­dan­gered species, such as cari­bou in parks in the Rocky Moun­tains and else­where. As for meet­ing its com­mit­ment by 2020, Canada has so far reached only 10.5 per cent of its goal while Namibia and Costa Rica are fur­ther ahead, he said.

“There’s a com­mit­ment from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to pro­tect 700,000 square kilo­me­tres of land. That’s an area the size of Al­berta,” Venter said of Ottawa’s strat­egy, which was boosted with a $1.3-bil­lion com­mit­ment in the last bud­get.

Ali­son Ron­son, na­tional di­rec­tor of the parks pro­gram at the Cana­dian Parks and Wilder­ness So­ci­ety, said while sev­eral prov­inces have re­cently moved to pro­tect land to meet the 2020 con­ser­va­tion tar­get, Canada was be­hind all G7 coun­tries when the so­ci­ety is­sued a re­port last sum­mer. Brazil had pro­tected 29.5 per cent of its land by then, China was up to 17.1 per cent and Aus­tralia had reached 17 per cent, the re­port said.

“The bal­ance in the coun­try has been so skewed to­ward in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity for such a long time,” Ron­son said of Canada. Fed­eral, pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial gov­ern­ments need to work with In­dige­nous gov­ern­ments to meet their con­ser­va­tion goals, she said.

BARRY GRAY THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

White­wa­ter rafters pad­dle near Jasper, Al­berta.

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