|National Wildlife Areas Are In Crisis
Grim Picture for Canada’s Wildlife Areas:
Canada’s national wildlife areas are in a state of crisis, according to a status report on the environment released in March 2008 by the Auditor-General’s Office.
The Status Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development concluded that “Canada's protected areas network may continue to deteriorate unless the Department takes concerted action to effectively manage sites and address threats to their ecological integrity.”
“National Wildlife Areas in Canada are facing a crisis,” said Julie Gelfand, Nature Canada President. “They’re left largely unmanaged. Enforcement of environmental laws is sporadic. Wildlife research is only conducted regularly in a handful of locations. Worst of all, Canada is missing out on important opportunities to grow the network.”
Nature Canada has long argued that it is possible – and necessary – to reinvigorate Canada’s protected areas system so that critical ecosystem services such as clean air and water are provided to Canadians, and endangered species have the habitat they need to survive.
National wildlife areas and other protected areas such as national parks also play an important role in limiting the effects of climate change by protecting carbon stores within trees and wetlands.
Protecting Canada’s wild species and spaces can happen through a combination of approaches as diverse as fostering nature appreciation in children, encouraging voluntary private land stewardship and legally protecting key sites that are particularly important to maintaining biodiversity.
“I think there are great opportunities for the Government to work with private landowners, Aboriginal groups, and local stewardship groups to protect and manage these lands,” said Gelfand. “Legal protection is, however, key.”
Nature Canada has called on the Government of Canada to act decisively to strengthen Canada’s protected areas network, specifically:
• Announce a funded plan to grow and manage Canada’s network of National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, including updating its legal and policy framework, by 2009.
• Invest $175 million over the next five years and $35 million annually thereafter to establish 21 new NWAs and provide the effective capacity to manage this protected areas network.
• Immediately announce that Canada will protect its boreal and arctic ecosystems by establishing interconnected networks of protected areas and implementing regional land-use plans in the Northwest Territories before approving any large-scale industrial projects, including the Mackenzie Gas Project. Canada should set a goal of protecting a minimum of 50 percent of its intact wild areas as part of comprehensive land-use planning initiatives for intact areas.
• Implement a consistent policy that excludes large-scale industrial activity inside national wildlife areas, such as those proposed at Suffield National Wildlife Area in Alberta and Kendall Island Bird Sanctuary in the Northwest Territories.