How much room does nature need? On Earth Day, a new report points to gaps in Canada’s wilderness safety net.
Canada’s national conversation about the environment often revolves around questions of how much.
How much land should be set aside for iconic species such as the caribou or the grizzly bear? How much is needed to maintain the character of an entire ecosystem? How much room does nature really need?
Such questions underpin a massive effort under way in Ottawa as the federal government races to fulfill Canada’s commitments under the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity. Like other countries that have signed the convention, Canada has agreed to set aside 17 per cent of its land area for protected status by the end of 2020. With only 10.5 per cent of the country fitting that description as recently as two years ago, the stage is set for the next 18 months to be among the most significant and active for nature conservation in the country’s history.
To help meet the 17-per-cent target, the Trudeau government last year allocated $1.3-billion for conservation efforts, more than a third of which is aimed specifically at creating more protected spaces. But while environmental groups have lauded the scale of the investment, concerns linger that in the rush to designate new areas, some of the most critical habitat in the country will be overlooked.