Encouraging Government to Step Up Protection Efforts

  • Published on Jul 27 2017 |
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Increasing Our Protection Efforts in Alberta

New protected areas finally have traction with governments across Canada, but we’re still far behind most countries around the world when it comes to the percentage of land that we’ve protected. This week CPAWS release our annual report on the state of protected areas in Canada which finds that Canada ranks dead last among G7 countries in the percentage of land and freshwater protected for nature. The new report “From Laggard to Leader,” encourages federal, provincial, and territorial governments to step up their protection efforts in order to conserve Canada’s natural heritage, and deliver on our international commitment.

In 2010, under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, part of a worldwide effort to stem the tide of biodiversity loss, Canada committed to protecting at least 17% of land and inland waters by 2020, and to more effectively conserve nature by improving the quality of their protected area systems. With only 10.6% of our landscape currently protected, Canada lags behind the global average of 15%, and trails other large countries such as China, Brazil, and Australia.

Alberta currently stands at 12.5% of our lands protected. While the province has recently made progress by creating the Castle Wildland and Provincial Parks, we still have a ways to go in order to achieve the target and representative protection of our unique ecosystems, from Grasslands to Boreal Forest. In February 2017, federal, provincial, and territorial Ministers, co-lead by Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks and the Federal Minister for Environment and Climate Change Canada, publicly announced their commitment to work together and achieve this target.  A new Pathway to 2020 process was initiated, and an Indigenous Circle of Experts and National Advisory Panel appointed to advise Ministers on this work.

This report and interactive website is intended to help provide even greater impetus for governments to take action. It includes a number of places in Canada that can be deemed to be ‘low hanging fruit’ for protection. While we have made recent progress in Alberta with the protection of the Castle Wildland and Provincial Parks, the next step, which is highlighted in the report, is the Bighorn Backcountry. The Bighorn covers over 6,700 square kilometers of Alberta’s wilderness that is not only home to several at-risk species, but is also an outdoor recreationist’s paradise and the source of nearly 90% of water for over 1 million Albertans. It is the perfect opportunity for immediate protection and will be a significant contribution to meeting our 17% commitment.

However, we can’t stop there. Alberta’s protected area system lacks representation of several important areas and eco-regions. We are urging the province to increase protection of grassland, parkland, and foothills habitat. CPAWS Southern Alberta is looking at recommendations for new areas for protection in the south to contribute to these goals.  For 50 years, CPAWS Southern Alberta has been part of important park and wilderness protection in our province.  It’s what we were made for. Thanks for being part of it.  Together we are making a difference.

Katie Morrison
Conservation Director, CPAWS Southern Alberta