Making Connections Between Urban and Wild Lands

  • Published on Jun 21 2017 |
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Challenges of Supporting Urban BiodiversityWhile we often think of conservation in the context of remote wilderness areas, it is vital to look at the big picture and recognize that cities play an important part in biodiversity and water conservation. With more than 80% of Albertans living in urban areas, it is important to consider the role our cities and towns play in conserving biodiversity and water resources in the larger landscape. How we plan and develop our cities and surrounding natural areas, including around rivers, green spaces, and our own yards, can help support the greater conservation goals of connected landscapes for things like fish, wildlife, plants, and insects.

A recent paper on the challenges of supporting urban biodiversity suggests that to improve the biodiversity potential of cities, we need to work together as scientists, managers, and citizens to enhance habitats in yards, neighborhoods, parks, and other urban natural areas.

While we still have a ways to go, the City of Calgary has taken steps towards truly embracing biodiversity in city planning.  In 2015 the city released a 10-year biodiversity strategic plan called Our BiodiverCity to provide a framework to start addressing biodiversity in our urban context.  CPAWS Southern Alberta’s Conservation Director sits on the City of Calgary Biodiversity Advisory Committee, which includes citizens with expertise in science, conservation, and education. The Committee provides advice to council on biodiversity issues, and works to enhance the profile of biodiversity conservation in Calgary.  Last fall Calgary became the third Canadian city to sign the Durban Commitment, agreeing to protect and enhance biodiversity at a local level.

As Calgarians, Lethbridgians, Canmorites, or residents of any other Albertan urban areas, we cannot separate our wild lands from our urban lands. We must get informed, support conservation, and grow our connection to nature–both in cities and in wilderness. Our cities are part of a larger landscape. The way we manage lands outside of urban areas, in our upstream headwaters forests for example, can also affect the wildlife, plants, and water within our cities. We need to make the connections between how we manage our urban and wild lands to achieve healthy landscapes and healthy communities.