This is a big deal: Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is tasked with establishing 10 new National Parks and 10 new National Marine Conservation areas over the next five years by working with First Nations and the provinces/territories, and 15 new National Urban Parks by 2030 (the 7910 hectare Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto that protects important tracts of highly endangered Carolinian ecosystems is the first example of this new designation).
Currently there are 47 national parks, 5 national marine conservation areas, and 1 national urban park in Canada.
Of any major protected area designation in Canada, National Park units are generally the largest (which is key to sustain the long-term ecological integrity of their ecosystems) with the highest protection standards and the greatest investment in conservation resources.
The federal government is also aiming to expand/create 22 National Wildlife Areas across Canada by 2030 (some current examples this type of designation include Vaseux Lake-Bighorn and Widgeon Slough in BC; Last Mountain Lake in Saskatchewan; and Long Point in Ontario).
These federal protected areas are part of the federal government’s plan to ensure the protection of 25% by 2025 and 30% by 2030 of the land and marine areas in Canada (currently 12% of Canada’s land area is protected and 14% of the marine waters have different levels of protection).
However, to reach these targets, most protected areas must be established by the provinces (which will generally be Provincial Parks and Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, such as Provincial Conservancies in BC), since even the establishment of all the aforementioned federal protected areas designations (which still need provincial buy-in) will come up far short in meeting Canada’s protected areas targets.
That is, the key stumbling block to expanding the protected areas system in Canada are the provinces (with the exception of Quebec, whose commitments match and in some ways exceed those of the federal government) who generally have not embraced the federal protected areas targets and agenda nor have they provided their share of key funding to make it happen.
The federal government is currently using “carrots” ie. federal funding, to try to help foster provincial buy-in to expand protected areas – but the time is coming that the provinces need to be strong-armed to hurry up now after years of being conservation laggards and to get on board the national and international conservation momentum, as the protection of nature is a key remedy to the extinction and climate crises that none of us will escape.
We will be playing an important role in that effort to bear-down pressure on the provinces shortly, and will need YOUR help! Watch for upcoming calls to action!