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New protected areas law a ‘game-changer’ for nature and biodiversity protection

OTTAWA, ON – Today, conservation and environmental groups are applauding the federal environment Minister’s introduction of the Nature Accountability Bill, in keeping with commitments under the United Nations Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. 

This first-of-its-kind law would, if passed, commit the federal government to meet the targets in Canada’s 2030 Nature Strategy, including to protect 30% of lands and water by 2030. There is clear evidence that nature and biodiversity is in crisis, with a million species at risk of extinction over the next few years, according to scientists. Without action, nature will remain in a dangerous decline. 

“This is a vitally important bill that could hold this and future governments of Canada responsible to achieve the protected areas targets linked to Canada’s international commitments from now until 2050. The protection of nature is the key remedy for the biggest ailments of industrial civilization, including the extinction and climate crises, to support our health and well-being, and to help attract and foster a more diversified, resilient, sustainable and prosperous economy. With some amendments, most importantly ecosystem-based protection targets, the Nature Accountability Act would put Canada at the international forefront for protecting nature,” stated Ken Wu, executive director of the Endangered Ecosystems Alliance.

 “This is a game-changer for nature and environmental law. This Bill gives us the opportunity to galvanize the urgent and transformative action needed to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, including much needed transparency measures to report on progress in protecting biodiversity” remarked Kerrie Blaise, founder and legal counsel at LAND. “This Bill also creates the space for us to advocate for respecting declarations by First Nations who, relying on their own legal traditions, have declared protected areas over lands and waters.”

The groups applaud the Bill’s promotion of a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach. If we are to act expeditiously in protecting and restoring the full diversity of native ecosystems across Canada and the Indigenous cultural relationships to these lands, work must be done in cooperation with provinces, territories and Indigenous governments to have a system of protected areas on a scale sufficient to ensure the long-term viability of all ecosystems.

The groups continue to impress upon the critical need to include “Ecosystem-Based Targets”, that is, protected areas targets for each of the diverse ecosystems across Canada, to be devised by science and Indigenous knowledge. Without protection targets with sufficient specificity to represent all ecosystems, and on a large enough scale to ensure their long-term ecological integrity, protected areas establishment will continue to largely skirt around the most contested and biologically rich areas where the vast majority of species at risk are found, but that are most coveted for development – in particular, areas sought after for industrial logging, agricultural conversion and urban sprawl largely in southern Canada. 

The commitment to recognize and help protect Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA’s) under Canada’s 2030 Nature Strategy, which the Nature Accountability Act would legally implement, would be a step in the right direction but would be a sporadic “conservation hotspots approach” to protect some of the most high conservation value areas. In contrast, Ecosystem-Based Targets would be systematic and much more comprehensive than a KBA-approach – instead of just being the “cherry on top”, they would include the “whole cake” too.  

While the Endangered Ecosystems Alliance and LAND applaud the release of the Nature Accountability Bill, there is still a need for the proposed law to:  

  • Require ecosystem-based targets to ensure all ecosystems are both represented and protected on a sufficient scale to ensure their ecological integrity; 
  • Directly cite Canada’s 30% by 2030 target and also establish interim targets to ensure appropriate progress is made towards 2025 and 2030 biodiversity protection goals;
  • Enable the creation of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas legal designations to advance the equitable inclusion of Indigenous peoples in conservation decision-making; 
  • Improve accountability and transparency measures, including reviews by the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development and Parliament regarding the sufficiency of Canada’s actions to implement the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework;
  • Ensure adequate resourcing, including conservation financing solutions that ensure economic development funding for First Nations engaged in protecting lands and waters.

MEDIA CONTACTS

Ken Wu, Executive Director – Endangered Ecosystem Alliance
kenwukenwu@gmail.com
250-514-9910

Kerrie Blaise, Founder and Legal Counsel – Legal Advocates for Nature’s Defence
kerrie@naturesdefence.ca
705-978-4034

Old-growth forest Ditidaht territory Vancouver Island
Old-growth forest Ditidaht territory, Vancouver Island

 


Kerrie Blaise, founder of Legal Advocates for Nature’s Defence,
the Fraser River in the Kanaka Bar Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area

 


Ken Wu, executive director at Endangered Ecosystems Alliance,
in an old-growth forest in Pacheedaht Territory, Vancouver Island

 


Ken Wu by Big Lonely Doug,
Canada’s 2nd biggest Douglas Fir, Pacheedaht Territory, Vancouver Island

Photo credit: Endangered Ecosystems Alliance (except for our post feature photo of Whitewater Lake in Azilda, On, photo credit: Jenna Brunt)

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