Indigenous conservation is key to protecting Canada’s wilderness: report

The WWF report also prioritizes new areas for protection by looking for overlaps in conservation values, including areas with high numbers of species at risk such as the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.

Indigenous-managed conservation areas are key to Canada’s commitment to designate nearly a third of its land and ocean waters for biodiversity protection by the end of this decade, new report says .

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada report stresses that protected areas should be “co-developed and implemented with Indigenous consent” as part of Canada’s reconciliation process.

Its release on Tuesday coincides with efforts by a group of world leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to lobby their counterparts on biodiversity conservation ahead of international negotiations in Montreal later this year.

Trudeau is due to speak Tuesday evening at an event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, currently underway in New York. The event was co-hosted by the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, a group of more than 100 countries that have all officially endorsed the goal of protecting at least 30% of the world’s land and oceans by 2030.

Ottawa has already committed to meeting the coalition’s 30×30 target as well as an interim goal of designating 25% of the country for protection by 2025.

Canada plays a central role in the global discussion on nature conservation as host of the next meeting of signatories to the UN Convention on Biodiversity, which is due to take place in December. The conference, co-chaired by China, was originally scheduled to take place in Kunming in 2020 but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and later moved to Montreal. A successful meeting is widely seen as essential if the world is to avert a looming biodiversity crisis.

In addition to hosting the meeting, Canada faces an important task with its own commitments.


Protection gaps

An analysis of wilderness areas in Canada considered the size, quality and connectivity of protected areas. The results identify gaps and help identify new areas for priority protection.

THE GLOBE AND THE MAIL, SOURCE:

WORLD WILDLIFE FUND CANADA

Protection gaps

An analysis of wilderness areas in Canada considered the size, quality and connectivity of protected areas. The results identify gaps and help identify new areas for priority protection.

THE GLOBE AND THE MAIL, SOURCE:

WORLD WILDLIFE FUND CANADA

Protection gaps

An analysis of wilderness areas in Canada considered the size, quality and connectivity of protected areas. The results identify gaps and help identify new areas for priority protection.

THE GLOBE AND THE MAIL, SOURCE: WORLD WILDLIFE FUND CANADA

To date, only 13.5% of Canada’s land area has received some form of protected status, along with a slightly higher portion of its marine and coastal waters. This leaves the federal government, as well as the provinces and territories, only a few years to meet the new targets.

“I think increasingly we’re on a global stage and so the leadership, the actions we take matter in many ways, just as much as the announcements we make,” said James Snider, vice president. from WWF Canada. of science, knowledge and innovation.

Scientists and conservation groups have long emphasized that what matters is not just how much land is protected, but precisely where it is and how it is managed to meaningfully safeguard threatened species and ecosystems.

WWF Canada’s report is the latest attempt to identify wilderness areas to prioritize for designated status.

The report identifies several gaps where environmentally sensitive regions are insufficiently protected. It then considers where additional protection can be most effective, prioritizing areas that provide multiple benefits. These include preserving habitat for species at risk, storing carbon in forests and soil, providing refuges and ecological corridors to help species cope with climate change, and enabling connectivity to through the landscape.

Most importantly, the report stresses that Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, or IPCAs, should be given high priority to gain protected status. These are areas where indigenous peoples play a key role in the conservation of ecosystems.

As examples, the report highlights four IPCAs in Canada. They include the Saskatchewan River Delta, the largest inland delta in North America, the Seal River watershed in northern Manitoba, the Aviqtuuq region of Nunavut, also known as the Boothia Peninsula, and a large forest-tundra transition zone called Thaidene Nene in the Northwest Territories. .

Steven Nitah, an Indigenous conservation leader and chief executive of Nature for Justice, an environmental advocacy organization, said he agreed with the report. Studies show that land managed by indigenous peoples is ecologically healthier, he said. Natural areas are also emerging as a key element of defense in the global response to climate change. Noting that Canada could look to international carbon markets as a way to help support conservation on Indigenous lands, Nitah said. “Why not tie them together as an opportunity?”

The WWF report also prioritizes new areas of protection by looking for overlaps in conservation values ​​to see which geographic locations offer the best returns.

Areas that emerge from the exercise include large swaths of Labrador, bogs west of Hudson Bay and much of Baffin Island. Areas with high numbers of species at risk, including British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River lowlands, are also prominent.

The results are consistent with ongoing work by scientists to provide a more accurate and universal means of recognizing high ecological value sites, called key biodiversity areas, or KBAs. In Canada, a registry of such zones is expected to launch next month.

Peter Soroye, researcher and outreach coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada, welcomed the report’s emphasis on protecting and supporting the rights of Indigenous peoples as part of Canada’s approach. in conservation.

In the area of ​​species protection, he added that the approach could be broadened to incorporate not only endangered species but entire ecosystems at risk of elimination.

He said the KBA approach “packs all the things that we most want to protect, from a purely biological point of view, into one tool.”

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